US Air Force deploys two B1 bombers to Guam to 'send a message' to North Korea
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
The U.S. Air Force has deployed two B-1 lancers to Guam amid North Korea’s persistent threats to conduct nuclear tests in the region.
“It’s not uncommon for us to have bomber task forces, which conduct operations around the world,” said Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s press secretary.
“Again, for two reasons: one, to send a very clear message that we will support our partners and allies around the world. And two, that we do have the capability to conduct global operations on any given day,” Ryder said during a press briefing at the Pentagon on Oct. 20.
The deployment of two B1 bombers “is meant to send a message that the United States stands closely with its allies and partners to deter potential provocation,” Ryder said.
According to Pacific Air Forces, the B-1 lancers landed at Andersen Air Force Base on Oct. 18.
“Well, as we've said, we continue to believe that North Korea is preparing for a potential future nuclear test,” Ryder said.
“It's something that we're keeping a close eye on. We'll continue to stay very closely in touch with the Republic of Korea, with Japan and our other allies and partners in the region on that front,” he added.
Korean Central News Agency, the state-controlled media, last week published a government statement saying the Korean People's Army fired “multiple artillery warning fires in the east and west seas” over the Korean Peninsula, claiming it was in response to the presence of “enemy artillery fire” around Cheorwon-gun, Namgangwon-do on Oct. 13 and 14.
Pyongyang warned, "In the future, our army will never condone any provocative moves of the enemy that intensify military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and will take thorough and overwhelming countermeasures."
“Through seven times of launching drills of the tactical nuclear operation units, the actual war capabilities of the nuclear combat forces ready to hit and wipe out the set objects at any location and any time were displayed to the full,” KCNA said.
Lt. Col. Ross Hobbs, the 34th Bomb Squadron commander, said the presence of the Bomber Task Force on Guam and flights throughout the Pacific region is meant to reassure U.S regional allies of the Department of Defense’s efforts to deter adversaries and keep stability in the region.
Lt. Col. Daniel Mount, 37th Bomb Squadron director of operations, said the B-1 “is an especially capable platform in this region, being able to travel large distances and bear significant firepower with precision and standoff munitions.”
This is the second time the Air Force sent the lancers to Guam this year.
The U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers landed at AAFB on June 3 to conduct PACAF training alongside allies, partners and the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Joint Force.
"The United States, the Republic of Korea, and other allies and partners in the region including Japan, conduct regular exercises to ensure that our forces have interoperability and that we can work together with the idea to defend one another's interests and our territorial integrity, as well as deter a potential attack," Ryder said.
"So, our focus will continue to be on working together with the Republic of Korea and with our allies and partners in the region to preserve not only free and open Indo-Pacific, but also regional stability and security," he added.
According to Pacific Air Forces, "Bomber Task Force missions enhance readiness for a variety of Air Force career fields, training airmen to respond to any potential crisis or challenge in the Indo-Pacific. These career fields work simultaneously, often across disciplines, to complete the mission."
“Bomber Task Force deployments and missions provide key assurances and cooperation with joint and partner Allies in the region,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Mount, 37th Bomb Squadron director of operations. “The B-1 is an especially capable platform in this region, being able to travel large distances and bear significant firepower with precision and standoff munitions.”