US B-1B Lancer strategic bombers carried out a fresh mission in the South China this week after carrying out joint drills with US Navy ships near Hawaii, the Pacific Air Forces announced via Twitter, accompanying the post with several photos of the operation.
#B1s conducted a mission in the South China Sea, just days after training w/@USNavy near Hawaii, demonstrating the credibility of @usairforce forces to address a diverse & uncertain security environment. #FreeandOpenIndoPacific @INDOPACOM @AFGlobalStrike @US_Stratcom pic.twitter.com/SnHZZ1u1tI— PACAF (@PACAF) May 19, 2020
According to the command, the drills were aimed at “demonstrating the credibility of @usairforce forces to address a diverse & uncertain security environment.”
Meanwhile, the US Air Force reported Tuesday that 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron B-1Bs had completed a training mission in the East China Sea.
A 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron B-1B Lancer lands at Andersen AFB, Guam after a training mission in the East China Sea. The 9th EBS deployed to Guam supporting @PACAF's mission & commitment to @INDOPACOM.— U.S. Air Force (@usairforce) May 20, 2020
📸 U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman River Bruce #ReadyAF #AimHigh pic.twitter.com/TorkK8pMRN
The increasing frequency of US bomber flights come amid simmering tensions between the world’s economic superpowers in the South China Sea, the East China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, as well as escalating back and forth rhetoric between Washington and Beijing over the coronavirus pandemic, which President Trump said Wednesday was the result of Chinese “incompetence.”
The US Air Force deployed a squadron of four B-1Bs and 200 airmen to Guam on May 1, and proceeded to fly them into areas near Chinese waters and in sea areas in the South China Sea claimed by Beijing, as well as waters off Taiwan.
Last week, Indo-Pacific Command spokesman Cpt. Michael Kafka accused China of “attempting to use the regional focus on COVID to assertively advance its own interests” in the region, and pledged the US would continue its ‘freedom of navigation’ missions in the area.
Gen. Timothy Ray, commander of the Air Force’s Global Strike Command, warned Beijing that the US has “the capability and capacity to provide long range fire anywhere, anytime and can bring overwhelming firepower, even during the pandemic,” with his remarks coming as the US demonstrated its ‘global reach’ by deploying nuclear-capable B-52 Stratofortress and B-2 Spirit bombers on simultaneous missions to Europe and the Pacific last week.
Last week, amid Chinese Navy drilling and plans to beef up naval and air forces in the Pacific, India expressed concerns that Beijing may be building South China Sea-style artificial islands in the Maldives. Australia, meanwhile, has raised concerns of its own over China’s growing military presence in the South China Sea and Beijing’s tensions with Washington.