TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Two B-1B supersonic heavy bombers were reported cruising the skies to the northeast of Taiwan on Wednesday (May 6), the third time this month they have patrolled the area.
The Twitter account Aircraft Spots at 3:44 p.m. on Wednesday announced that two variable-sweep wing B-1B Lancers took off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam to carry out a mission in the East China Sea. The post added that a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker also took part to provide inflight refueling.
Based on the map, the bombers flew over the waters off the coast of northeast Taiwan. Ministry of National Defense (MND) spokesman Shih Shun-wen (史順文) told reporters that Taiwan's military was in full control of the country's sea and air space, without specifically mentioning the warplanes.
According to Aircraft Spots, this was the third time American B-1B bombers had flown missions near Taiwan's airspace this month. The previous two missions took place on Friday (May 1) and Monday (May 4).
The resumption of bomber missions by the U.S. Air Force is significant, as it suddenly withdrew its wing of B-52 bombers from Guam without notice on April 17. This abruptly ended a continuous presence of U.S. bombers on the base since 2004, stoking fears that the U.S. was pulling back from the region.
The explanation offered by U.S. Strategic Command spokesperson Kate Atanasoff that day was that it was shifting to a less predictable global deployment pattern. “In line with the National Defense Strategy, the United States has transitioned to an approach that enables strategic bombers to operate forward in the Indo-Pacific region from a broader array of overseas locations, when required, and with greater operational resilience, while these bombers are permanently based in the United States,” said Atanasoff, according to Stars and Stripes.
USAF B-1Bs RAMSY01 & 02 departed Andersen AFB, Guam and flew to the East China Sea to conduct operations— Aircraft Spots (@AircraftSpots) May 6, 2020
USAF KC-135R PARKA11 provided tanker support pic.twitter.com/YdAYzR6XQI