The United States Air Force has stopped its uninterrupted rotation of bombers in Guam, ending a more than 15-year presence in the area.
Five B-52H Stratofortresses left the Andersen Air Force Base on Wednesday, just days after the aircrafts participated in a military might ‘elephant walk’ exercise aimed at China.
The planes’ flights were first reported by @AircraftSpots.
No replacement aircraft was seen, bringing an end to the Continuous Bomber Presence Mission, the War Zone reports. The program started in 2004.
Five B-52H Stratofortresses left the Andersen Air Force Base on Wednesday, just days after the aircrafts participated in a military might ‘elephant walk’ exercise aimed at China
The planes’ flights were first reported by @AircraftSpots. No replacement aircraft was seen, bringing an end to the Continuous Bomber Presence Mission
‘In line with the National Defense Strategy, the United States has transitioned to an approach that enables strategic bombers to operate forward in the Indo-Pacific region from a broader array of overseas locations, when required, and with greater operational resilience, while these bombers are permanently based in the United States,’ U.S. Air Force Major Kate Atanasoff, a U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) spokesperson, said in a statement.
‘U.S. strategic bombers will continue to operate in the Indo-Pacific, to include Guam, at the timing and tempo of our choosing.’
Under the Continuous Bomber Presence Mission, the Air Force deployed B-52s, b-1B Bone supersonic bombers and B-2A Spirit stealth bombers for six-month stints to Andersen.
The program ensured that at least one task force of long-range heavy bombers would be ready to respond to potential issues in the Pacific Region.
On Monday, the Andersen Air Force Base, which is about 1,800 miles east of China, flexed its military strength with an elephant walk of at least a dozen aircraft from the US Navy and Air Force
Earlier this month, the Air Force had indicated that it wanted to implement shorter duration bomber deployments to Guam.
The U.S. military has also been implementing the Dynamic Force Employment operations, which aims to make major deployments less predictable.
By making them less predictable, potential opponents – like China and Russia – would feel on edge.
The Air Force has been experimenting with sending bombers to new or less common deployment locations in the Pacific and in Europe.
There are still very serious problems that could erupt in the region, as seen in the need for the military to perform an ‘elephant walk’ of bombers on the base.
On Monday, the Andersen Air Force Base, which is about 1,800 miles east of China, flexed its military strength with at least a dozen aircraft from the US Navy and Air Force.
A U.S. Navy MH-60S Knighthawk, U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk, Navy MQ-4C Triton, Air Force B-52 Stratofortresses, and KC-135 Stratotankers stationed at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, perform an ‘Elephant Walk’ April 13, 2020
The elephant walk came just days after China sent its aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, and fighter jets close to Taiwan (depicted above)
An elephant walk is a procession of military aircraft taxiing close in formation right before a minimum interval takeoff.
According to The Aviationist, the procession included a Navy MH-60S Knighthawk, Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk, five Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers and six KC-135 Stratotankers.
The elephant walk came just days after China sent an aircraft carrier and fighter jets close to Taiwan.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the Liaoning, China’s first operational aircraft carrier, and five accompanying warships passed first through the Miyako Strait, located between Japan’s islands of Miyako and Okinawa, to the northeast of Taiwan, on Saturday.
U.S. Navy Air Crewman 2nd Class Zach Morrissey, assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25, prepares to travel over Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, during an ‘Elephant Walk’
Morriseey travels over Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, during an ‘Elephant Walk’
On Sunday, the carrier group, which included two 052D guided-missile destroyers – the Xining and Guiyang – two 054A guided-missile frigates – the Zaozhuang and Rizhao – and supply ship, the Hulunhu, sailed in waters on Taiwan’s east coast and then into seas to the south of Taiwan, carrying out exercises, the ministry said.
Taiwan’s armed forces monitored the carrier group’s progress throughout and ‘completed relevant actions in response to ensure national security and protect regional peace and stability’. There was no immediate response from China’s Defense Ministry.
The USS Roosevelt and USS Ronald Reagan are the only two US carriers in the Pacific, but both have been forced to dock due to confirmed coronavirus cases onboard, which effectively gives China free range in the region.
The Elephant Walk showcases the 36th Wing’s readiness and ability to generate combat airpower at a moment’s notice to ensure regional stability throughout the Indo-Pacific
A U.S. Navy MH-60S Knighthawk, MQ-4C Triton, U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk, B-52 Stratofortresses, and KC-135 Stratotankers stationed at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, perform an ‘Elephant Walk’
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the Liaoning (file image), China’s first operational aircraft carrier, and five accompanying warships passed first through the Miyako Strait, located between Japan’s islands of Miyako and Okinawa, to the northeast of Taiwan, on Saturday
The Liaoning, which can carry up to 24 J-15 fighter jets, is currently the only aircraft carrier active in the western Pacific.
The USS Roosevelt, which is currently docked in Guam, reported its first death of a sailor who previously tested positive for the virus on Monday.
Nearly 600 sailors on the aircraft carrier have now tested positive for COVID-19 with about 92 per cent of the ship’s crew having been tested.
Officials said the USS Reagan is currently docked in Yokosuka, Japan, for maintenance, but crew members have also reported coronavirus cases onboard.
The US military has also been active in waters near Taiwan recently.
A US Navy guided-missile destroyer sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Friday, the same day that Chinese fighter jets drilled in waters close to the island.
Last month, US warship USS McCampbell sailed through the Taiwan Strait.
The guided missile destroyer had transited the strait on a ‘routine mission’ through the waterway, according to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry.
The potential crippling of the US Navy in the Pacific is alarming news given escalating tensions between Beijing and Washington in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Beijing and Washington have traded barbs over the origin of the coronavirus, with President Donald Trump angering Beijing by calling it the ‘China virus’.
Senior Chinese officials have also spread conspiracy theories about the virus’ origin.