US bombers and fighters, earlier this month, flew a show of force sortie over the South China Sea that included one B-52H, two B-1Bs, four F-15Cs, seven tankers, and a US Navy guided missile destroyer as tensions are raised in the region. The exercise, mentioned in an Air Force news release about the B-52s returning to their home base of Minot AFB, N.D., occurred after the aircraft participated in the Phoenix Black exercise in Australia. The operation was a “routine small force training sortie” that included several forward operating bases in the region.Tthe flight “enabled us to practice tactics in the South China Sea that offered many valuable lessons learned that will make us more lethal in combat,” said Capt. Chandler Anderson, the 34th Bomb Squadron assistant flight commander, airborne mission commander, and weapon systems instructor on the sortie. The B-52 was one of three that deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, on Dec. 13 for a 15 day rotation. The Stratofortresses at the base were in addition to the B-1s, already forward deployed as part of the Air Force’s continuous bomber presence to the Pacific. The B-52s flew 15 sorties during the short deployment, the release states.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.