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Eyes on the East: US Air Force Bombers Fly First Concurrent Pacific Operation

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History was made Wednesday, according to the US Air Force, when all three of the service’s “power projection bombers” took off from the island of Guam to embark on their first group operation in the Asia-Pacific.

The B-52 Stratofortress, the B-1 Lancer and the B-2 Spirit have been deployed separately in the past, but, according to a 36th Wing statement, "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." 

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Wing commander Brig. Gen. Douglas Cox said, "This mission demonstrated the US commitment to supporting global security and our ability to launch a credible strategic defense force." Last week, three B-2 Spirit stealth aircraft arrived from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri for a brief deployment to the Pacific as part of bomber operations by the US strategic command. The B-2s are the most advanced bombers in America, with the capability of delivering both nuclear and conventional weapons.

An undisclosed number of supersonic B-1 Lancers from Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota landed at Andersen a few days prior, to replace the older fleet of B-52s deployed from Minot Air Base in North Dakota. The B-1 can carry more than 75,000 pounds of weapons and can travel up to 900 mph. 

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Lt. Col. Seth Spanier, 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron commander, said, "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," adding, "We will routinely, on a day-in and day-out basis, get to train with the land, air and naval forces of both the US and our allies and partners in the region. It’s really an unmatched training opportunity for our squadron."

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​The deployments precede the annual US-South Korea Ulchi Freedom Guardian war games, which North Korea claims is a dress rehearsal for potential invasion. Miffed by the B-2 deployment, North Korea has accused the US of plotting a surprise nuclear attack and has vowed to launch a counterattack if assaulted. 

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The North’s Korean Central News Agency said last week, "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 US imperialists and the puppet forces.They are now mulling creating an opportunity of surprise nuclear attack in the course of the Ulchi Freedom Guardian," adding that there will be a "merciless retaliatory counteraction against them. A pre-emptive nuclear attack is not a monopoly of the US." 

US officials maintain that the exercises are geared toward improving defense and should be considered routine and non-threatening.

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