Bengaluru: In a historic first for Aero India 2021, the United States Air Force’s (USAF’s) heavy bomber B-1B Lancer flew halfway around the globe — taking 26 hours and four air-fuelling sessions — to land at Yelahanka Air Force Base. The last time a US bomber had landed in India was in October 1945. The supersonic bomber took part in the flypast at the inaugural ceremony, making it a major highlight of the airshow that came to an end on February 5, and signalling the US’ dedication to its partnership with India.
“It was a very important event for us. The flight took us about 26 hours to get over here with four separate air-refuelling sessions,” USAF pilot Lt Col Michael Fessler said, sharing his experience. “The United States Air Force and government put a tonne of emphasis on making sure we get here and operate with our IAF partners.” The officer said the main objective of bringing the Bomber to the airshow was to work on their partnership and build relationships with the Indian Air Force.
Though the USAF and IAF have conducted joint exercises, the Bomber force was by and large never a part of it. “The B-1B presence at Aero India was to broaden cooperation and our exposure to the Indian Air Force, and showcase what USAF can bring out to support India and our partnership in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.
Fessler was all praise for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) pilots who flew with the Bomber during the show. “I am really impressed with the Tejas pilots, their leadership, professionalism and skill are amazing,” he said. “Unfortunately, I never had an opportunity to meet face-to-face the pilots who flew off our wing. However, they were just around 25 feet away in the air,” the USAF pilots said.