Three B-2 strategic nuclear bombers completed a tour of duty in Guam this week, as tensions remained high between the United States and China over what the Pentagon called a “dangerous” Chinese fighter-jet intercept of a U.S. surveillance plane last week.
“This training deployment demonstrates continued U.S. commitment to global strategic bomber operations throughout the Asia-Pacific region, and exercises the president’s credible and flexible military options to meet national security obligations for the U.S. and its allies,” said Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney, commander of U.S. Strategic Command.
Adm. Haney said in a statement that the bombers are intended to send a message to allies and adversaries.
“It is important for U.S. Strategic Command to continue to project global strike capabilities and extended deterrence against potential adversaries while providing assurance to our allies through deployments such as this,” he said.
The deployment is part of Strategic Command’s efforts to promote regional security and stability in the Asia-Pacific. He noted that the command’s forces “are on watch 24-hours a day, seven days a week conducting operations to detect and deter strategic attack against the United States of America and our allies.”
“Strategic bomber deployments such as these are just one way in which U.S. Stratcom supports [the Pacific Command] in accomplishing that stability,” the admiral said.
The bat-wing stealth bombers spent most of August based on the U.S. western Pacific island conducting what the Air Force described as activities designed to “increase combat readiness.”
Air Force spokesman Capt. Ray Geoffroy said the bombers conducted training flights near Guam and within the Pacific Command area of responsibility. Skills tested included command and control, air refueling, and weapon-load training.
Capt. Geoffroy said the deployment was planned earlier and is not related to “any specific situation or directed toward and nation in the region” — an indirect reference to last week’s aerial incident with China.
A defense official said the B-2 deployment is part of the U.S. pivot to Asia and was intended as a message to China, which has been increasing its nuclear and conventional forces.
The B-2s, which can carry nuclear and conventional weapons, are part of U.S. extended deterrence missions designed to bolster non-nuclear allies like Japan and South Korea that are squaring off against nuclear-armed China and North Korea.
It is the first B-2 deployment for an extended period in over two years. The last strategic bomber deployments took place in January 2012.
The deployment overlapped the Aug. 19 aerial encounter between a Navy P-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft and a Chinese Su-27 jet interceptor over the South China Sea.
The Pentagon called the Chinese encounter “dangerous” and “aggressive,” and filed a protest with the Chinese military, which rejected the charges.
Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon that the Chinese jet came extremely close to the P-8 and did a barrel-roll maneuver over the top of the jet.