Yokota Air Base in the suburbs of western Tokyo is home to U.S. Forces Japan, 5th Air Force and the 374th Airlift Wing.

Yokota Air Base in the suburbs of western Tokyo is home to U.S. Forces Japan, 5th Air Force and the 374th Airlift Wing. (Kelly Agee/Stars and Stripes)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — A B-52H Stratofortress diverted Tuesday evening to this airlift hub in western Tokyo, the second such visit in less than a year.

The bomber landed at 5:22 p.m. safely and without incident, a spokesman for 374th Airlift Wing, Master Sgt. Nathan Allen, said by email Wednesday.

The Stratofortress is assigned to the 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale Air Force Base, La., he said. The bomb wing is the largest in Air Force Global Strike Command, whose mission is to provide strategic deterrence, global strike and combat support.

Allen did not say what caused the bomber to divert to Yokota, and the wing denied Stars and Stripes’ request to photograph it. Amateur photographers, in fits and starts, approached the base’s east-side perimeter fence, attempting to get shots of the aircraft behind a row of trees.

A B-52 took part in an exercise Tuesday over South Korea along with Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, South Korean F-15 Slam Eagles and Japan Self-Defense F-2 fighters, according to a news release from the South Korea Ministry of National Defense.

The drill near Jeju Island south of the Korean Peninsula was held to “improve the ability to deter and respond to North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile threats,” the ministry said.

The flight took place the same day that North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile that flew roughly 370 miles before splashing down in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, according to South Korea’s military.

The airpower demonstration was only the third time the three countries have ever flown a bomber escort drill together. The first was Oct. 22, the second on Dec. 20.

Stars and Stripes could not immediately confirm that the same bomber landed Tuesday evening in Japan.

B-52s rarely touch down at Yokota, which also serves as headquarters for 5th Air Force and U.S. Forces Japan. A Stratofortress landed at the base on July 12 due to an in-flight maintenance issue.

That aircraft, assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., was in the region to support a training exercise. Its arrival at Yokota occurred a week after four B-52s deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, as part of the Air Force’s ongoing bomber task force missions intended to project U.S. air power in the region.

Prior to July, a B-52 landed at Yokota in 1989 during the Japanese-American Friendship Festival.

For more than 60 years, the B-52 has been the backbone of the U.S. strategic bomber force, according to the Air Force. It can carry the widest array of weapons in the service’s inventory, including nuclear or precision-guided conventional ordnance.

The Air Force regularly sends B-52s to Guam on bomber task force missions to demonstrate its capacity for global delivery of air power.

Stars and Stripes reporter David Choi contributed to this report.

author picture
Kelly Agee is a reporter and photographer at Yokota Air Base, Japan, who has served in the U.S. Navy for 10 years. She is a Syracuse Military Photojournalism Program alumna and is working toward her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland Global Campus. Her previous Navy assignments have taken her to Greece, Okinawa, and aboard the USS Nimitz.

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