Bombers make history with first simultaneous Pacific operation
By AARON KIDD | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 18, 2016
The Air Force said history was made Wednesday when all three “power projection bombers” — the B-52 Stratofortress, the B-1 Lancer and the B-2 Spirit — took off from Guam for their first operation together in the Asia-Pacific.
Though the aircraft have deployed independently to the region in the past, “this was the first time all three bombers flew a formation pass over Andersen Air Force Base, dispersed and then simultaneously conducted operations in the South China Sea and Northeast Asia,” a 36th Wing statement said.
“This mission demonstrated the U.S. commitment to supporting global security and our ability to launch a credible strategic defense force,” said Brig. Gen. Douglas Cox, the wing’s commander.
Three B-2 Spirit stealth aircraft — America’s most advanced bomber, capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions — arrived last week from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., for a short Pacific deployment that’s part of U.S. Strategic Command’s bomber operations.
A few days earlier, an undisclosed number of supersonic B-1 Lancers from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., landed at Andersen to replace the base’s aging fleet of B-52s deployed from Minot Air Force Base, N.D. The B-1 can fly more than 900 mph and carry more than 75,000 pounds of munitions.
“The unique thing about our opportunities here as part of the continuous bomber presence is we really have the chance to train across all of the mission sets that the B-1 is capable of,” said Lt. Col. Seth Spanier, 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron commander. “We will routinely, on a day-in and day-out basis, get to train with the land, air and naval forces of both the U.S. and our allies and partners in the region. It’s really an unmatched training opportunity for our squadron.”
The deployments come ahead of Ulchi Freedom Guardian, annual U.S.-South Korean war games that North Korea claims are preparation for an invasion.
The North, angered by the B-2 deployment, has accused the U.S. of preparing for a surprise nuclear attack and promised to retaliate.
“What should not be overlooked is that the massive forward-deployment of nuclear war hardware is underway with the approach of the Ulchi Freedom Guardian, a joint nuclear war exercise to be staged by the U.S. imperialists and the puppet forces,” the North’s Korean Central News Agency said last week.
“They are now mulling creating an opportunity of surprise nuclear attack in the course of the Ulchi Freedom Guardian,” it added, promising a “merciless retaliatory counteraction against them.”
“A pre-emptive nuclear attack is not a monopoly of the U.S.” it said.
U.S. officials say the exercises, slated to begin Monday, are routine and geared toward defense.
A B-52 Stratofortress, B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit fly over Guam, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. Though the aircraft have deployed independently to the Asia-Pacifc in the past, "this was the first time all three bombers flew a formation pass over Andersen Air Force Base, dispersed and then simultaneously conducted operations in the South China Sea and Northeast Asia," a 36th Wing statement said.
JOSHUA SMOOT/U.S. AIR FORCE