(Source: Airforcetimes.com – Rachel S. Cohen) – B-1B bombers return to Diego Garcia island base after 15 years

B-1B Lancer jets this week deployed to Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean for the first time in more than 15 years, again boosting the bomber presence on the British atoll.

The U.S. military uses Diego Garcia as a strategic point for launching operations in the Indo-Pacific, and has brought all three types of bomber aircraft to the atoll within the past two years. The B-1 does not wield nuclear weapons, but carries the Air Force’s largest payload of guided and unguided conventional weapons. (…)

“Deploying long-range bombers to Diego Garcia and the carrier group into the South China Sea sends a clear message from the U.S. that the Chinese government should not think about attacking Guam” with ballistic or cruise missiles, Banfield said. “If China makes such a move, the US could launch long-range stealth bombers from Diego Garcia against a range of targets, including the [People’s Liberation Army] aircraft carrier Shandong, in the South China Sea.”

Banfield weighed in shortly after the U.S. dispatched three B-2 Spirit stealth bombers and six B-52 Stratofortress bombers to the Indian Ocean archipelago. Still, he warned that sending several bombers is “merely an attention-getter,” not an overwhelming show of force.

The bombers could also fly sorties in nearby U.S. Central Command, U.S. Africa Command and U.S. European Command during their stay on Diego Garcia.

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Photo © Staff Sgt. Hannah Malone, U.S. Air Force, as published in ibid