Two supersonic bombers reportedly drilled alongside allies in Northeast Asia Saturday, reaffirming U.S. commitment to its partners and sending a message to North Korea and other challengers.
B-1B Lancers, powerful aircraft carrying the largest conventional payload of guided and unguided munitions of any Air Force bomber, departed Andersen Air Force Base in Guam for the Korean Peninsula Saturday. They first joined up with two Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-2s before joining up with two Republic of Korea Air Force F-15K fighters, the Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs Office said in an official statement.
The bombers conducted a flyover during the 2017 Seoul International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition at Seoul Airport. Escorted by South Korean fighters, one flew to a low altitude of only around 500 feet. Spectators could hear the roar of the engines and feel the vibration as they passed, a defense ministry official told Yonhap News Agency.
Together with South Korean air force units, the bombers reportedly conducted simulated air-to-surface missile launch drills, according to South Korean media.
“The sequenced flights with Japan and [South Korea] are a demonstration of the strength of the bilateral alliances between U.S. partners and allies,” the Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs Office explained.
U.S. bombers recently participated in an unprecedented nighttime training exercise with South Korean and Japanese strategic air assets near the Korean Peninsula. In the past, these flights were carried out in response to North Korean provocations, such as ballistic missile and nuclear weapons tests, but they are now being conducted regularly.
These flights are expected to occur every couple of weeks, officials told Yonhap. North Korea has suggested that it has the right to self-defense, including the right to open fire on American military aircraft. It has not, however, attempted to do so since the country’s foreign minister issued this warning a few weeks ago.
The B-1B Lancers stationed at Andersen Air Force Base support America’s continuous bomber presence in the Asia Pacific. The bombers can reach Korea in two to three hours.
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