Here’s an inside look at the three bombers currently in the Pacific

Flexing our muscles, showing our strength

Matt Saintsing
January 17, 2018 - 7:49 pm

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)

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For the first time since 2016, the U.S. has three different bombers in the Pacific. B-52 Stratofortress bombers arrived Tuesday at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, to give the Pentagon some much needed redundancy as tensions with North Korea continue to ebb and flow.

Hailed from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, the six B-52s, along with 300 airmen, will take over the “continuous bomber presence” mission in the Pacific from B-1B Lancer bombers in just a few weeks, the Air Force said in a press release.

Since the mission began in 2004, the U.S. sought to reassure its allies in the region, and to demonstrate strength to North Korea, or any Pacific power who’d wish to do the U.S. harm.

The B-1s and B-52s in Guam will be accompanied by three B-2 Spirit stealth bombers that deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri last week.

B-52 Stratofortress

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tenley Long)

Having been on the front line of America’s nuclear deterrence and defense arsenal since the 1950s, the B-52 is the massively iconic bomber ready to deploy on a moment’s notice to thwart a potential adversary, like North Korea.

And while it may be considered by some to be a “crown jewel” of the Air Force’s bomber aircraft, it hasn’t been carrying strategic nuclear gravity bombs since at least 2010. That’s because the B-52 may no longer be considered survivable enough to get through air-defenses to drop its nuclear ordinance.

Still nuclear capable, however, they can be equipped to carry nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missiles, which can be fired from the peaceful skies outside the range of modern air-defenses.

B-2 Spirit

(Photo by Airman Taylor Phifer)

The bat-winged aircraft is currently the only U.S. bomber capable of carrying a nuclear gravity bomb, and the only stealth bomber in the American arsenal. Originally designed to overcome Soviet air-defenses to deliver nuclear weapons, its mission in recent years has included delivering precision strikes with conventional weapons, like last January, when it hit Islamic State targets in Libya.

The bomber, which looks more like a boomerang than a bat (in my opinion), was first used conventionally during the Kosovo War in 1999. It also saw action in 2003 in Iraq, and was among the first bombers to drop ordinance on the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan after 9/11.

B-1B Lancer

(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Richard P. Ebensberger)

The B-1 hasn’t carried nuclear weapons since 2010, when the new START Treaty between the U.S. and Russia went into effect, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been used. They’ve been involved in numerous shows of force in the skies above the Korean peninsula, and have flown with South Korean and Japanese aircraft before dropping bombs on training ranges in South Korea.

Its mission has evolved from being a long-range bomber to leading close- air support (CAS) missions for U.S. troops in contact.

“The B-1 has dropped more weapons in CAS than any other platform. It’s second to none,” Lt. Col. Dominic “Beaver” Ross, director of operations for the 337th Test and Evaluations Squadron told Military.com

While it’s wrong to view these deployments as aggressive actions, it’s hard not to view this impressive display of air power as anything other than a signal to nations who have been on the not-so-friendly-list as of late, like North Korea.