In response to the “growing threat from North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs,” Pacific Air Forces said two B-1B Lancer bombers from Guam flew to the Korean Peninsula Friday and practiced an attack mission with South Korean and U.S. fighters.
It was the second time in two days that B-1Bs were dispatched to Asia in a show of force.
Friday’s mission was in response to a series of increasingly escalatory actions by North Korea, including a test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile on Monday, according to the Air Force command headquartered at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
“North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland,” Gen. Terrence O’ Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander, said in a release. “Let me be clear, if called upon we are trained, equipped and ready to unleash the full lethal capability of our allied air forces.”
Pacific Air Forces said the demonstration was part of the “ironclad” U.S. commitment to its allies against the North Korean threat.
The B-1Bs flew to the Korean Peninsula and joined with South Korean F-15 fighters and U.S. Air Force F-16 fighters. The B-1Bs practiced attacks by releasing inert weapons at the Pilsung Range, the service said.
“U.S. bombers and Republic of Korea fighters are just two of many lethal military options at our disposal,” Lt. Gen. Thomas Bergeson, U.S. Forces Korea deputy commander, said in the same release. “This mission clearly demonstrates the U.S.-ROK alliance remains prepared to use the full range of capabilities to defend and to preserve the security of the Korean Peninsula and region.”
En route back to Guam, the B-1Bs flew with Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-2 fighter jets over the East China Sea, the Air Force said.
On Thursday, meanwhile, two B-1Bs flying out of Guam flew over the disputed South China Sea.
The mission “demonstrates how the U.S. will continue to exercise the rights of freedom of navigation anywhere international law allows,” the Air Force said. “These actions are consistent with long-standing and well-known U.S. freedom of navigation policies that are applied to military operations around the world.”
China lays claim to much of the South China Sea and the United States periodically sails ships and flies planes through the region in what America maintains is international airspace and waters.
The B-1Bs that deployed from Dyess Air Force Base in Texas and were using Andersen Air Force Base in Guam as a “power projection platform” earlier flew a mission over the East China Sea with Japanese counterparts, the Air Force said.
The “combat skills” mission marked the first time U.S. Pacific Command-directed B-1Bs conducted training with Japanese fighters at night.
“U.S. joint military forces in the Indo-Asia-Pacific are always ready to defend the American homeland,” Pacific Air Forces said. “These flights with Japan demonstrate the solidarity between Japan and the U.S. to defend against provocative and destabilizing actions in the Pacific theater.”