Pentagon sending B-52s to Guamas 'additional flexible deterrent'
The Air Force will send at least six B-52 bombers to Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base this month, U.S. Pacific Command officials confirmed Tuesday.
The B-52s and support personnel are headed to Guam in mid-February on a rotational basis as part of the command’s “ongoing force posture adjustment,” according to an Air Force news release.
A spokeswoman at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., said Tuesday that “approximately six” B-52H Stratofortress bombers from the base would deploy to Andersen sometime in February. About three hundred airmen from the base will go with them, Maj. Dani Johnson said.
Johnson said she did not know the duration of the deployment but said they typically last three months. Defense officials at the Pentagon have said other bombers could be sent to the Pacific in the future.
“We will stay there as long as they need us,” Johnson said.
Air Force officials at the Pentagon say they were only apprised of PACOM’s announcement late Monday and had no comment.
The Associated Press, citing unnamed Pentagon officials, reported in late January that B-52s would be deployed to Guam and elsewhere in the Pacific to “offset a loss of combat power as thousands of American soldiers and Marines in that region depart for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
About 3,000 Marines, scheduled for a six-month stint on Okinawa, were tagged for an Iraq tour. Some were sent from Okinawa; others hadn’t arrived on island yet from their U.S. bases.
Also, the 2nd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division, based at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, has been tapped as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom 2.
But Marine Maj. Guillermo Canedo, a PACOM press officer, said the B-52 deployment is not directly related to any country or real-world event.
He said the deployment gives Rear Adm. Thomas Fargo, the PACOM commander, “additional flexible deterrent.”
Gen. William Begert, commander of Pacific Air Forces, said in January he hoped to put additional “force structure” on Guam.
One advantage to Guam is its proximity to North Korea. At about 2,000 miles, Guam is an easy hop for fighters and bombers, but well out of the reach of Pyongyang’s missiles, which threaten U.S. bases in South Korea and Japan, Begert said. The B-52, which can travel up to 635 mph at 21,500 feet, has a range of more than 8,000 miles.
“There’s no place in the world that is completely invulnerable from attack,” Begert said, but “Guam is far enough back” to eliminate concerns about many attacks, such as from surface-to-surface missiles.
Guam hosted bombers in October 2001 when the United States attacked Afghanistan.
Guam has a pair of two-mile runways, munitions storage and the 36th Maintenance Squadron, which provides ground support equipment for aircraft upkeep.
Lisa Burgess, Jennifer Svan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.