A B-52 Stratofortress assigned to the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., arrives at Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia on March 22, 2024.

A B-52 Stratofortress assigned to the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., arrives at Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia on March 22, 2024. (Staci Kasischke/U.S. Air Force)

Two Louisiana-based B-52 bombers deployed Friday to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean as part of a mission to enhance readiness and sustain deterrence, according to the Air Force.

The Stratofortress bombers, assigned to the 2nd Bomb Wing from Barksdale Air Force Base, were deployed to Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia as part of the ongoing bomber task force missions by Pacific Air Forces.

“Bomber task force missions showcase our capability for rapid deployment in support of the combatant commander’s objectives,” Maj. Joshua Dawkins, director of operations for the 96th Bomb Squadron, said in an Air Force news release Friday.

The deployment allows the bombers to respond to “any potential crisis or challenge across the globe” at a time when the security environment “is more diverse and uncertain than at any other time in recent history.”

Diego Garcia was a key logistical hub during America’s 20-year military intervention in Afghanistan. Located centrally in the Indian Ocean, the island served as launch point for bombing missions during the conflict.

The island could play a larger role for the U.S. as tensions rise in the Middle East with Israel’s incursion into the Gaza Strip and an upsurge in missile strikes by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on ships passing through the Gulf of Aden.

An undisclosed number of B-1B bombers and about 200 airmen deployed to Diego Garcia for a bomber task force mission in October 2021, the first time Lancers had operated there in more than 15 years.

Bombers are more routinely deployed to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam for bomber task force missions.

Diego Garcia is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory. Under a lease with the U.K. that will expire in 2036, the U.S. operates Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia on the island.

The installation hosts units from the U.S. Navy, Air Force and Space Force, as well from the Royal Navy.

The island has been mired in controversy since the late 1960s when the British expelled the roughly 2,000 inhabitants of Diego Garcia to clear the way for construction of the joint U.K.-U.S. military base.

Most of those ousted inhabitants ended up in Mauritius and the Seychelles, where many have for decades petitioned to return to the island.

Mauritius maintains it has sovereignty over the entire British Indian Ocean Territory, which is made up of roughly 1,000 mostly tiny islands.

In late 2022, U.K. and Mauritius officials announced they were beginning negotiations to resolve all outstanding issues on the territory.

The London-based Telegraph newspaper reported in December that a plan to turn over territory to Mauritius had been scrapped after objections to the turnover by Grant Shapps, Britain’s defense secretary.

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Wyatt Olson is based in the Honolulu bureau, where he has reported on military and security issues in the Indo-Pacific since 2014. He was Stars and Stripes’ roving Pacific reporter from 2011-2013 while based in Tokyo. He was a freelance writer and journalism teacher in China from 2006-2009.

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