On Apr. 17, 2020 the USAF announced it will no longer base strategic bombers outside of the continental United States, marking an end to the service’s 16-year CBP at Andersen AFB, Guam.
On Apr. 17, 2020 the US Air Force (USAF) announced it will no longer base strategic bombers outside of the continental United States, marking an end to the service’s 16-year continuous bomber presence (CBP) at Andersen Air Force Base (AFB), Guam.
However, as the pictures in this post show, an impressive “elephant walk” that included five B-52 strategic bombers, six KC-135 tankers, an MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter, an RQ-4 Global Hawk, and a U.S. Navy MQ-4C Triton was staged before the last bomber left the island to remind the world of USAF’s combat power.
“U.S. strategic bombers will continue to operate in the Indo-Pacific, to include Guam, at the timing and tempo of our choosing,” said Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) in a statement. “We will maximize all opportunities to train alongside our allies and partners, to build interoperability, and bolster our collective ability to be operationally unpredictable.”
The new “dynamic force employment” model allows the bombers to operate from a “broader array of overseas locations” with greater resilience, while keeping the aircraft permanently based in the US.
As told by Air Force Magazine, the last deployment ended on Apr. 16, just three days after the elephant walk, as B-52s returned to Minot AFB, N.D. The long-expected change comes as service leaders, including Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and AFGSC boss Gen. Timothy Ray, have said dynamic deployments of task force-size groups of bombers will be more effective in the future.
“Yes, we are absolutely adjusting our presence in theater when it comes to bombers,” Goldfein said on Apr. 1.
B-1Bs returned to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, after a deployment to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar in March 2019. A “task force” of B-52s deployed to the region shortly after, that mission was a short rotation in response to Iranian threats, not a regular deployment.
The “dynamic force employment” concept allows for the Air Force and broader military to be “strategically predictable, and operationally unpredictable” in sending the high-value assets to the Pacific, Goldfein said. The Air Force regularly sends similar “bomber task force” rotations to Europe.
The service is looking to improve the readiness of the B-1B by practicing task force movements locally in advance of the Lancer deployment to the Pacific this year Ray said in September.
Since 2004, USAF bombers such as the B-1B Lancer, B-52 Stratofortress and B-2 Spirit have been in continuous rotations to Guam. These bombers provided a significant rapid global strike capability that enabled US readiness and commitment to deterrence, offered assurance to the allies, and strengthened regional security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Bomber rotations also provided Pacific Air Forces and U.S. Pacific Command commanders a global strike and extended deterrence capability against any potential adversary and provided opportunities to strengthen regional alliances and long-standing military-to-military partnerships throughout the region.
Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Divine Cox and Senior Airman Michael S. Murphy/U.S. Air Force