It looks like Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis and his friends are sending a message to the Chinese, and they’re doing it with our largest and most venerable bomber.
America’s largest bombers have been flying over the region as part of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence mission.
According to a statement from the Pacific Air Forces last month, the Continuous Bomber Presence missions are part of a “program that has been ongoing since March 2004.
USAF B-52H POSSE02 departed Andersen AFB, Guam and conducted a mission over the East China Sea in the vicinity of Okinawa
USAF KC-135R TETRA21 provided tanker support from Andersen pic.twitter.com/E3Y7wmUy5T
— Aircraft Spots (@AircraftSpots) August 23, 2018
“Two U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers, assigned to the 96th Expeditionary Bomber Squadron (EBS), participated in a joint training mission with two U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft, assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 45 and VP-4, in the vicinity of Japan over the East China Sea Aug. 1, 2018,” the statement read.
“This marks the second joint force integration in as many weeks for the 96th EBS aircrew, deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. The 96th EBS aircrew used the mission to familiarize themselves with the Indo-Pacific region and demonstrate, through multi-service flight operations, the United States’ commitment to operating freely across the global commons.”
“This sortie allowed our aircrews to employ the B-52’s unique capabilities in coordination with our naval counterparts,” Maj. John Radtke, 96th EBS mission planner, said in the statement.
“Ultimately, it increased our readiness to serve as a credible deterrent force and presence within the theater.”
“The routine employment of CBP missions in the USINDOPACOM area of responsibility are in accordance with international law and are vital to the principles that are the foundation of the rules-based global operating system.”
However, given China’s continual expansion of military forces in the area, the flights have taken on an additional resonance.
“Is the US trying to exert more pressure on China’s trade by sending a B-52 bombers to the South China Sea?” one headline in a state-run Chinese tabloid read, according to a Business Insider report in June. A flight over the South China Sea that month had China’s Foreign Ministry accusing the United States of “running amok.”
Nevertheless, the flights are “flown in accordance with international law” and consistent with the United States’ “long-standing and well-known freedom of navigation policies,” PACAF said.
Freedom of navigation — or FONOPS — missions have become a huge issue with China as of late.
After a naval FONOPS mission in the spring, Chinese officials said it was a “serious military provocation.”
“What the U.S. is doing will damage the military-to-military relations and atmosphere,” Chinese defense ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said.
From the looks of things, that’s not scaring Mad Dog and company off. And flights of the awesome B-52s prove it.
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