The US deployed every type of strategic and nuclear-capable bomber to Guam amid soaring tensions between the Washington and Pyongyang in a move sure to rattle North Korea.
The B-1B Lancer bomber, the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, and the B-52H – the workhorse bomber that dropped tens of thousands of tons of munitions on North Korea during the original Korean War – will be in Guam, the Pentagon has confirmed to Business Insider.
North Korea can’t stand US bomber deployments to Guam, where the US hosts massive military bases in relative proximity to Pyongyang. North Korean media statements usually react strongly and issue threats in response to the US flying B-1 training missions over the Korean Peninsula.
In statements, North Korea refers to the B-1 bomber as a nuclear asset, although the plane has been modified not to carry nuclear weapons as the result of an arms control pact with Russia. The B-2 and B-52 do have nuclear capability, and make up the air-launched component of the US’s nuclear triad.
In August, North Korea threatened to fire intermediate-range Hwasong-12 missiles towards Guam, arcing them to fall just short of the island and instead in the sea. The US responded by saying it would meet any attack on Guam with full force.
Unlike in-ground nuclear silos and under-sea secretive submarines, the nuclear-capable bombers in the US Air Force’s fleet enable the US to signal its resolve and intentions during times of high tensions.
While some may interpret the deployment of the nuclear-side of the bomber fleet as an escalation, the deployment is part of a mission called Continuous Bomber Presence, wherein the US has maintained a bomber presence in the Pacific at all times to assure allies, enable readiness, and promote regional stability since 2004.
But it’s still rare to find all three in Guam at once. The three bombers first flew together in Guam in August 2016, and this deployment is the first time since that they’ve all been gathered together in the South Pacific.
Sending all three strategic bombers to Guam sends the strongest message bomber deployments could possibly spell out.