U.S. Air Force B-52s Took Part in South Korean Patrol: The United States Air Force’s fleet of B-2 Spirit bombers might be grounded, but this week an undisclosed number of nuclear-capable B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers took part in a flight near South Korea as part of a demonstration of U.S. “extended deterrence” against North Korea.
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The B-52 is capable of flying at high subsonic speeds at altitudes of up to 50,000 feet (15,166.6 meters), and it can carry nuclear or precision-guided conventional ordnance with worldwide precision navigation capability.
What made this particular flight unique is that the bombers were escorted by U.S. Air Force F-22 stealth multirole combat aircraft, while South Korean F-35A and F-15K fighters also participated in the joint air drills that were held in South Korea’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) southwest of its southern island of Jeju.
According to Seoul’s Ministry of National Defense, the F-22 Raptors were sent from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, and also conducted separate exercises with the South’s F-35A jets to improve “capabilities to respond to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.”
The joint drills between the United States and South Korea followed North Korea’s launch of two medium-range ballistic missiles on Sunday. Pyongyang announced that it had conducted a test of its first reconnaissance satellite, a claim that drew skepticism from defense officials and analysts as North Korea has previously used satellite launches as cover for tests related to its banned intercontinental ballistic missile program.
“We are aware of the ballistic missile launches and are consulting closely with our allies and partners,” U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) said in a statement. “While we have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or to our allies, the missile launches highlight the destabilizing impact of the DPRK’s unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs. The U.S. commitments to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remain ironclad.”
However, Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, quickly dismissed the doubts about the satellite test.
“They will immediately recognize it in case we launch an ICBM in the way of real angle firing straight off. I think that they would be well advised to halt their nonsense and think twice,” she said in a statement released to the state-run Korean Central News Agency, UPI reported.
Even before Sunday’s missile launch, U.S. and South Korean defense officials agreed to reinforce Washington’s security commitment to Seoul. In agreement last month, the U.S. announced it would increase joint military drills and regularize the presence of U.S. strategic assets, including long-range bombers and aircraft carriers.
It was also last month that U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers drilled in South Korea’s ADIZ with F-16 Fighting Falcons and South Korean F-35 Lightning IIs. That patrol, which occurred on November 19, came one day after North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed less than 150 miles from Japanese territory.
Expertise and Experience: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.