The task of having a nuclear bomber in the Pacific will now be taken up by the B-2 which will “come out episodically.”
During a virtual event with the AFA Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, the head of U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) Gen. Timothy Ray assured that the service will continue to send bombers to the Pacific, just not for extended periods.
As we have recently explained, when the 69th Bomb Squadron left Andersen Air Force Base (AFB), it brought an end to the basing of bombers in the Pacific, which USAF had done since 2004. While B-1s were sent almost immediately back to the area in direct flights from the US, there has not been a nuclear bomber presence in the Pacific since the decision was made to end the Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP).
Ray said for the immediate time being, that will remain. According to Air Force Magazine, up until this month, two of the service’s four B-52 squadrons had been deployed and they need time to “reset.” B-1s bring a different capability, including the ability to fly faster and carry other types of weapons that are important in the region. Lancers carry AGM-158C Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles and AGM-158B Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range missiles, “and I think you’ll see that it has great operational benefit to our partners and allies,” he said.
“We will bring nuclear bombers into the theater on a regular basis,” Ray said. “The B-52s are simply resetting, [so] the B-2s are picking up a little bit more of the load. B-2s will come out episodically.”
It’s also just easier for the USAF to send B-1s because they are conventional.
“There’s a few people who get a little alarmed when you bring a nuclear bomber into their airspace,” Ray said. “We look at the B-1 as a great capability: I can land it in a lot of places physically that I can’t land a B-52, and I can operate with more people. So we’re going to feature that a little bit more in the Pacific.”
Now that all bomber squadrons are based in the United States, where they have simulators and access to ranges that aren’t available while deployed, they will soon be “in very good shape” and be available for additional long-distance direct flights and small task force rotations, Ray said.
“You’ll see all three bombers operating in the Pacific,” he said.
On Apr. 17, 2020 the USAF announced it will no longer base strategic bombers outside of the continental US, marking an end to the service’s 16-year CBP at Andersen AFB.
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.
The long-expected change comes as service leaders, including Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Ray himself, have said dynamic deployments of task force-size groups of bombers will be more effective in the future.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force