The Indo-Asia-Pacific region is no stranger to U.S. bombers. For more than a decade, the U.S. military has maintained a deployed strategic bomber presence in the Pacific, focused on enabling regional security and stability.
To sustain that presence, Eighth Air Force, historically known as “the Mighty Eighth,” provides combatant commanders with the B-1 Lancers, B-2 Spirits, B-52 Stratofortresses and Airmen to support joint and allied partnerships within the region.
When B-2s deployed to Guam earlier this week with B-1 and B-52 units currently operating from Anderson Air Force Base, it marked a historical first for the Service.
“As a result of simultaneous operations, we have all three Mighty Eighth bomber aircraft assigned to the U.S. Pacific area of responsibility at the same time – it’s a first,” said Maj. Gen. Richard M. Clark, 8th Air Force commander.
Though the aircraft have appeared together in past instances in the Pacific AOR, this is the first time all three bombers are there to conduct integrated operations in the region.
The Air Force will maximize on the overlap of strategic bombers by conducting the first integrated bomber operation in the Pacific AOR while all the bombers are in place in Guam.
“This presents a great opportunity,” Clark said. “By integrating every platform within this environment, we will strengthen our interoperability and demonstrate to our allies we have the capability to strike anywhere, anytime using a variety of methods.”
The total bomber force came together via two separate operations, both which provide opportunities to train with regional partners and demonstrate a shared commitment to global security and stability.
The short-term B-2 deployment is part of a U.S. Strategic Command bomber assure and deter mission focused on conducting local sorties, regional training and integrating with partner nations. During the deployment, members of the 509th Bomb Wing will hone skills in areas to include command and control, air refueling, long-rang navigation while directly interacting with allied military forces.
“There’s no substitute for operating in theater,” said Lt. Col. Charles Bailey, 8th Air Force deputy director for Plans. “Deployments like the ones to Guam focus unit training while allowing us to interact with our allies and partners right there in the Pacific region.”
The B-2 is known for its low-observable or “stealth” characteristics and ability to penetrate highly sophisticated defenses while avoiding adversary detection. The aircraft is also able to fly at subsonic speeds, possesses a 7,000-mile unrefueled range and can reach an elevation of 50,000 feet.
The B-2 BAAD mission comes at a time when the Air Force is conducting a Continuous Bomber Presence swap out in the Pacific.
Approximately 300 Airmen along with B-1s from Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, are replacing B-52s and their support personnel from Minot AFB, North Dakota, who currently support U.S. Pacific Command strategic deterrence and regional training missions.
This is the first time in a decade B-1s will be based in the PACOM AOR, however both aircraft have a long historical role in the CBP missions and embody similar capabilities.
Lancers, also known as “Bones,” are multi-role heavy bombers able to deliver long-range strikes, offer persistent presence and can carry up to 75,000 pounds of payload. And much like the B-52, it’s not new to the battlefield.
“The B-1 force is coming back to the Pacific, bringing years of combat experience from Iraq and Afghanistan with them,” Bailey said.
For the time being, examples of every strategic bomber will be seen operating from the same location within PACOM’s AOR.
But regardless of platform, “the Mighty Eighth will continue to provide combatant commanders the necessary tools to assure our allies, deter our adversaries and enhance regional security within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” Clark said.