Online aircraft tracker Aircraft Spots reported the departure of five B-52H Stratofortress bombers from Andersen Air Force Base on the Philippine Sea island. of Guam.
Since 2004, the Pentagon has carried out what it calls the Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) mission, in which it maintained a wing of strategic bombers in the Pacific near China.
Alongside B-52’s, the Air Force has previously stationed B-1B Lancers and B-2 Spirit bombers, the latter of which is capable of carrying nuclear weapons, as is the B-52.
US Air Force Major Kate Atanasoff, a US Strategic Command (STRATCOM) spokesperson, told The War Zone that US bombers would continue to “operate forward in the Indo-Pacific region from a broader array of overseas locations.
The shifting of bombers away from Guam is in line with that new National Defense Strategy as well as “Dynamic Force Employment,” as Air Force Global Strike Command calls it, in which the Pentagon makes sudden and unannounced shifts in force deployments to keep adversaries on their toes?
There are different ways to understand the official statement, although on its face value it is illogical.
Why would the US pull back from bases that have served it effectively for years, only to redeploy them so they can “operate forward” from an “array of overseas locations”?
And why pull them all the way back to Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota and not to nearer by Alaska or Hawaii?
The short answer is that the build-up of China’s military deployment of new strategic bombers, submarines, surface combatants and two aircraft carriers is shifting the region’s balance of power.
But wouldn’t the logical response be to strengthen the US military posture in East Asia, instead of yanking bombers back to the USA?
Part of the US Air Force’s concern is China’s DF-26 missile, sometimes referred to as the “Guam Killer.” The DF-26 is said to be capable of hitting targets up to 5,471 km’s away with nuclear or conventional warheads.
If the Dong Feng-26 is the real threat, then the next step should be closing Naval base Guam, where the Covid-19 afflicted US aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is now berthed. No such plan has been put forward, at least not yet.
Given US strategic responsibilities in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Persian Gulf and Pacific, and the fact that carriers operate with task forces usually called Carrier Strike Groups and include surface ships and submarines to protect them, taking two carriers out of service also creates a significant redundancy for the other task force vessels.
A Carrier Strike Group consists of a guided-missile cruiser for air defense, 2 LAMPS (Light Airborne Multipurpose Ships that carry anti-submarine warfare helicopters) warships and one or two anti-submarine destroyers.
The Strike Group is also supported by an undeclared number of nuclear attack submarines. A variant of the Carrier Strike Group is an Expeditionary Strike Group that consists of an aircraft carrier and “an amphibious assault ship, a dock landing ship (LSD).
An amphibious transport dock, a Marine expeditionary unit, AV-8B Harrier II or, more recently, Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II aircraft, CH-53E Super Stallion and CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters or, more recently, MV-22B tiltrotors, cruisers, destroyers and attack submarines.”
Carrier Strike Group 5 is based in Yokosuka, Japan, and is part of the US Seventh Fleet. The Seventh Fleet also has ship components in Sasebo, Japan, and at Apra Harbor, Naval Base Guam.
Given the navy’s recent wasteful record of failed programs, including but not confined to the Littoral Combat Ship, the hugely costly Zumwalt class destroyers, the failed Long Range Land Attack Projectile.
Also the unlikely deployment for its expensive and unneeded long-range electromagnetic “supergun”, the seriously troubled new aircraft carrier designs with questionable catapults and non-functioning aircraft elevators, Congress may not be keen on signing on to yet another project where the strategic rationale is in the best case murky.
Sputnik / ABC Flash Point News 2020.