Two U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer supersonic strategic bombers conducted live-fire drills in South Korea amid the rise in tension in Korean peninsula following North Korea’s test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The exercise involved simulated destruction of an enemy ballistic missile launcher and underground facilities.
The bombers flew from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam and were joined by South Korean F-15 fighter jets and USAF F-16 fighter jets over Korean peninsula.
The U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) said in a statement that the mission is in response to a series of increasingly escalatory actions by North Korea, including a launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on July 3. The B-1Bs practiced attack capabilities by releasing inert weapons at the Pilsung Range in South Korea’s eastern Gangwon province.
“North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland,” said General Terrence O’ Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander. “Let me be clear, if called upon we are trained, equipped and ready to unleash the full lethal capability of our allied air forces.”
North Korea announced it successfully test-launched an ICBM, saying the missile was capable of carrying a large and heavy nuclear warhead. Some experts believe the missile has the range to reach Alaska and Hawaii and the test signaled a significant advance in the North’s declared intent to build a nuclear-tipped missile that can hit the U.S. mainland.
The drill follows a joint artillery and missile exercise by South Korean and U.S. forces a day after the North’s ICBM test.
En route back to Guam, the B-1Bs also conducted a bilateral exercise with Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) F-2 fighter jets over the East China Sea.