The U.S. Air Force has ended its uninterrupted rotations of bombers to Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, which have been ongoing since 2004, as it shifts to a less predictable concept of operations.
The Air Force announced April 17 it will no longer base strategic bombers outside of the continental United States.
Five B-52H Stratofortresses left yesterday with no replacement aircraft in place, bringing an end to what the service had called the Continuous Bomber Presence Mission.
Online aircraft tracker @AircraftSpots spotted the five B-52Hs leaving Guam for their home at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota on Apr. 16, 2020. The bombers used the very pointed callsign “SEEYA” for the transit.
This notably came just days after the bombers took part in a massive “elephant walk” readiness drill that also involved six KC-135R aerial refueling tankers, an RQ-4B Global Hawk drone, as well as a U.S. Navy MQ-4C Triton drone, and an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter, which was seen as a significant statement of American resolve aimed China.
“U.S. strategic bombers will continue to operate in the Indo-Pacific, to include Guam, at the timing and tempo of our choosing,” said Air Force Global Strike Command in a statement. “We will maximize all opportunities to train alongside our allies and partners, to build interoperability, and bolster our collective ability to be operationally unpredictable.”
The transition to a “dynamic force employment” model allows the bombers to operate from a “broader array of overseas locations” with greater resilience, while keeping the aircraft permanently based in the U.S., AFGSC said.
The last deployment ended April 16, just three days after the elephant walk, as B-52s returned to Minot Air Force Base, N.D. The long-expected change comes as service leaders, including Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Air Force Global Strike Command boss Gen. Timothy Ray have said dynamic deployments of task force-size groups of bombers will be more effective in the future.
“Yes, we are absolutely adjusting our presence in theater when it comes to bombers,” Goldfein said April 1.
In March 2019, B-1Bs returned to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, after a deployment to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. While a “task force” of B-52s deployed to the region shortly after, that mission was a short rotation in response to Iranian threats, not a regular deployment.
The “dynamic force employment” concept allows for the Air Force and broader military to be “strategically predictable, and operationally unpredictable” in sending the high-value assets to the Pacific, Goldfein said. The Air Force regularly sends similar “bomber task force” rotations to Europe.