B-1s Carry Naval Mines for Bomber Task Force Mission

B-1B Lancers deployed to Guam for a bomber task force joint training mission with the Navy, with Airmen and Sailors practicing loading and releasing naval mines from the B-1s.

The naval mine exercise, or MineX, took place Oct. 24, staged out of Andersen Air Force Base, according to a release from Pacific Air Forces.

As part of the exercise, Sailors from Navy Munitions Command’s Pacific Unit built and delivered the Mark-62 Quickstrike mines, then worked with Airmen from the 28th Munitions Squadron to load them onto the B-1s.

All told, an undisclosed number of B-1s were loaded with 21 mines total, each mine weighing about 500 pounds. A B-1 can carry up to 84 of the mines.

“MineX missions require close coordination and integration between the Navy and the Air Force,” Col. Chris McConnell, 37th Bomb Squadron commander, said in a statement. “As one of the aircraft capable of releasing mines, we have to work with our Navy partners to understand where those munitions need to be placed to meet the desired objectives.”

McConnell also stated that as part of the mission, the B-1s flew alongside “Navy partners and allies,” though PACAF did not specify what other aircraft or partner nations were included in the mission.

The exercise marks a quick start for the B-1s’ bomber task force deployment on Guam. An undisclosed number of the bombers from Ellsworth Air Force Base, N.D., arrived there Oct. 18. It marks the second time this year that B-1s have been deployed to Guam and the first BTF mission in the Indo-Pacific this fall.

The Ellsworth B-1s are no strangers to naval mine exercises, though. Just this past August, a B-1 from the 28th Bomb Wing was loaded with a Mark-65 Quickstrike mine and flew from Ellsworth to off the coast of California, where it dropped the munition. A similar exercise took place in 2014.

B-1s from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, also dropped Mark-62 Quickstrike mines as part of  Exercise Baltic Operations in 2018.

None of those B-1 exercises, however, took place in the Indo-Pacific, where the Pentagon has placed an increased emphasis as of late as part of its strategic competition with China—the Air Force and Navy did work together during Exercise Valiant Shield in 2018 and in 2019 to load and drop naval mines.

The B-1B is capable of carrying up to eight Mark-65 Quickstrike mines, which weigh 2,000 pounds each.