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. 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. 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.
Online aircraft tracker and friend of The War Zone @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.
USAF B-52Hs SEEYA01, 02, 03, 04 & 05 departed Andersen AFB, Guam en route home to Minot AFB, North Dakota. pic.twitter.com/woOBYDT8fq
— Aircraft Spots (@AircraftSpots) April 16, 2020
“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,” U.S. Air Force Major Kate Atanasoff, a U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) spokesperson, confirmed in a statement to The War Zone. “U.S. strategic bombers will continue to operate in the Indo-Pacific, to include Guam, at the timing and tempo of our choosing.”
Starting in 2004, the Air Force began deploying B-52s, as well as B-1B Bone supersonic bombers and B-2A Spirit stealth bombers, for six-month stints to Andersen on Guam as part of the Continuous Bomber Presence Mission. As its name indicates, the concept of operations was meant to ensure that at least one task force of long-range heavy bombers was in position at the immensely strategic base at all times to respond to potential contingencies in the Pacific Region. The bombers on Guam had been a cornerstone of U.S. power projection and deterrence capabilities to the region since then.