The Air Force didn't mention Air-Sea Battle or "pre-integration" in its official story about a recent Global Strike Command exercise, but if you know where to look, those words almost leap off the screen.
Global Strike sent two B-52s to take part in a long-running annual exercise up in the Baltic Sea, one that also includes Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia and Sweden. It also evidently included another foreign power, from the Air Force's perspective -- the U.S. Navy.
But the blue services are playing nice now, as we've heard, and although the details were a little thin, the Air Force's account included this very interesting tidbit:
"This type of exercise is a prime example of how teamwork among different nations can help increase stability, diminish threats to peace and strengthen relationships," said Robert Thomson, the Air Force Global Strike Command exercise division chief. "In addition, it was a good example of how the Air Force can support the U.S. Navy's operations by striking targets at sea."Sounds like Air-Sea Battle, and true to Pentagon leaders' promises, here it was not directed at China.
A B-52 could drop bombs over the ocean from the first time it flew, back in the Spanish-American War, and later, by World War I, it could launch cruise missiles. But that isn't what it was built for, and today Air Force and Navy commanders want to deliberately repurpose it to become as versatile a naval aviation platform as it was a strategic one. Moreover, Air-Sea Battle's architects say they want "pre-integrated" naval and air forces to be ready to play as soon as they hear the starting gun. This would appear to be an example of that.