In Rare Move, Air Force Temporarily Deploys 3 Kinds of Bombers in the Pacific

B-52 Stratofortress bombers began arriving Tuesday at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, temporarily providing the Pentagon with a rarity as tensions with North Korea percolate: the presence of three kinds of bombers in the Pacific.

The six B-52s and 300 airmen from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana will take over the U.S. military’s “continuous bomber presence” mission in the Pacific from a unit of B-1B Lancer bombers at the end of the month, Air Force officials said in a news release. The mission, which has existed since 2004, is designed to reassure U.S. allies in the region and show strength against China, North Korea and other potential adversaries.

The B-52s and B-1s will be joined in Guam by three B-2 Spirit stealth bombers, which deployed last week from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. The bat-winged bomber arrived in what the Pentagon characterized as a short-term deployment, giving the Pentagon an unusually robust show of force this month in Guam until the B-1s return to Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota. The Pentagon last had three kinds of bombers deployed in the Pacific in 2016.

The deployments could have additional significance in the Pacific considering the planes’ capabilities. The B-2 is the only U.S. bomber capable of carrying a nuclear gravity bomb. B-52s are able to carry smaller nuclear cruise missiles, while B-1s do not carry nuclear weapons as a result of a the 2010 New START Treaty between the United States and Russia.

The deployment of the B-52s in the Pacific came at the same time that the Pentagon sent four other B-52s from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Britain. They will carry out training from the base RAF Fairford, reassuring allies in Europe.

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SOURCE: Dan Lamothe
The Washington Post