Dyess AFB Report

Monday 22nd October 2012

Well known to enthusiasts as the home of the B-1B, UK Airshow Review were invited to spend a day with the men and women of Dyess AFB, Texas to report on this fascinating base, its units and their operations.

Andy Evans reports, with additional photography from Paul Newbold, Chris Barkby & Mark Forest.

Dyess AFB has been an operational military airfield since 1942 and formed the back bone of the US Nuclear deterrent since 1955 initially operating the B-47 Stratojet right up to recent times. In 1957, the base received its first B-52 which operated from the airfield alongside the B-47 fleet until the latter was retired in 1961. As part of the 96th Bomb Wing, Dyess also played host to KC-97 and KC-135 Tankers in support of this role. 1961 also saw the introduction of the C-130 to the base with the tenanted units playing a major role in the Vietnam war. In addition to its Nuclear bomber role, between 1962 and 1965, the base played host to 13 Atlas Intercontinental Nuclear Missile silos in and around the area which, together with the based Nuclear bomber fleet were protected by two Nike Hercules SAM sites.

Dyess is famous as a primary B-1B Lancer base and in June 1985 received its first aircraft as part of the replacement program for the B-52. Just over a year later in October 1986, Dyess was declared operational with the B-1B and assumed Nuclear alert status with the aircraft. In 1993, the 7th Air Wing was stood up to encompass all operations by the based B-1 and C-130 aircraft. The base today operates a combined fleet of B-1B Bombers and the latest C-130J aircraft, Dyess has also the distinction of being one of the greenest USAF bases with most of its energy coming from renewable sources.


The Rockwell B-1B Lancer began its life as a low level penetrator Nuclear bomber that was intended to replace the B-52 in service. However, with the advent of the end of the Cold War and the B-2A Spirit, this ambition was never realised. Whilst the Lancer is at heart a Nuclear bomber, the aircraft is no longer used in this role and has been replaced by the B-2A Spirit, Ohio Class Nuclear Submarines and land based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM). The modern Lancer is still capable of carrying external munitions however this has been limited by international treaties, however it's internal weapons carriage capability is substantial outclassing both the capability of the B-52 and the B-2 with many weapons in the inventory.

Dyess AFB is home to two operational combat units of B-1B's sharing a pool of 36 aircraft, the 9th Bomb Squadron and the 28th Bomb Squadron. Sharing duties between both of these units, they currently maintain a 24 hour Combat Air Patrol over Afghanistan providing a unique sustained close air support capability to some operations that cannot be provided by fast jets with short endurance. These operations not only involve the dropping of munitions on targets but also involves intelligence gathering by the utilisation of the Sniper XR pod together with low level and loud 'Show of Force' manoeuvres designed to scare potential threats in the ground and prevent them engaging friendly forces.

The B-1B remains at the forefront of the strike role in the USAF; once again proving its worth during Operation Odyssey Dawn over Libya in 2011. Taking off from Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota, two Lancers flew non-stop to Libya to successfully hit their targets with double the bomb load of the B-52, they then landed in Europe to rearm and rest, to then go on hitting more targets over Libya before making a non-stop flight home straight from combat. An achievement that saw 24hrs total flying time for the B-1B and over 100 targets destroyed by two aircraft on two sorties. Captain Taylor from the 28th Bomb Squadron advised that these four sorties accounted for 23% of all guided weapons dropped on targets by the Allied powers as part of combat operations.

As for the future? The future looks bright for the Lancer at Dyess with the base anticipating an out of service date of 2025. The aircraft continues to sharpen its teeth with the recent addition of the Sniper pod and other upgrades either entering the testing stage or being announced. This has included the integration of the Laser-JDAM vastly increasing the bombers accuracy in addition upgraded Data Links and new mission computers (for example the Integrated Battle Station). These provide the aircraft with modern displays and a capability to hand off/receive targets from other aircraft/sources in the area. Truly linking the B-1B to the digital battlefield of the 21st Century.

Super Hercules

Dyess AFB plays host to the largest gathering of C-130J Super Hercules in world, with 23 currently on base, increasing to 28 aircraft by the end of 2013. The 317th Airlift Group at Dyess incorporates two flying squadrons, the 39th Airlift Squadron "Trail Blazers" and 40th Airlift Squadron "Screaming Eagles" and represents the only stand alone group in the 18th Air Force, all other Groups are part of a Wing. The 317th's primary mission is to save lives and sustain combat operations in theatre. This role involves providing the spokes of a hub and spoke airlift system in theatre where larger transports such as the C-5 bring in bulk loads which are then distributed in theatre by the Hercules.

The 317th received their first C-130J on 16th April 2010 and retired their last C-130H on 26th September 2012 to become an exclusively "J" unit. The last "H" model was flown out by the son of a pilot that had also flown that aircraft. Whilst undertaking this transition, the 317th have the distinction of being continuously deployed somewhere in the world (mainly in Afghanistan) for over 3100 consecutive days which, is no easy undertaking. In terms of capability, the C-130J represents a massive leap for the 317th allowing them to fly 16 aircraft formations without availability problems and to fly faster, further, with a higher payload much more efficiently than was previously capable with the C-130H. Captain Earl Arnold from the 317th AW who is an ex instructor pilot on the C130E/H and now a co-pilot on the C-130J, described this as going from an early mobile phone to an iPhone, a quantum leap in technology.

Remembering the Past

USAF Bases are well known for looking after their heritage, usually via a small heritage park of aircraft that have flown from the base in the past; Dyess AFB is no exception. As with everything in Texas however, the Heritage Park is larger than usual. All the types that have been based at Dyess are represented including the latest exhibits, a B-1B and C-130H which proudly stand at the entrance gate. However, the team that look after this park have gone a step further and are well on the way to realising their ambition of displaying an example of nearly every type to fly with the USAF. This currently includes some rare and interesting types including Canberra and the F-89 Scorpion. Not content with their current collection, the bases next exhibit has been confirmed and should be delivered in the next two years, nothing less than an F-117 Nighthawk!

As many have come to expect from the USAF, UK Airshow Review were greeted by a host of friendly and outgoing members of the Dyess AFB team that were only too willing to explain the day to day life of this nest of Bombers and Transports. The Deputy Chief of the Public Affairs Office, 2nd Lt Ferrara deserves a special note of thanks for arranging our in depth visit and being our guide on the day.