The U.S. Air Force is deploying three B-2 bombers to Hawaii from their normal station at Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster, Mo., for training in the Pacific, though it’s possible a flight of the stealthy, nuclear-capable aircraft could become permanent fixtures there.
The bombers were accompanied by 200 support personnel and are part of a U.S. Strategic Command-led Bomber Task Force.
A recent defense analysis noted that the deployment of B-2s to Hawaii is “China’s nightmare,” adding that it’s “something Beijing should get used to.”
“The B-2 Spirits’ first deployment to (Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam) highlights its strategic flexibility to project power from anywhere in the world,” Maj. Gen. Stephen Williams, director of air and cyberspace operations, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces said in a statement in October.
“The B-2s conducted routine air operations and integrated capabilities with key regional partners, which helped ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific. The U.S. routinely and visibly demonstrates commitment to our allies and partners through global employment and integration of our military forces,” Williams added.
As for this new deployment of B-2s, it “enables us to showcase to a large American and international audience that the B-2 is on watch 24 hours a day, seven days a week ready to protect our country and its allies,” military spokesman Lt. Col. Joshua Dorr said in a statement.
A Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs press release did not expressly mention China because such official statements regarding the deployment of U.S. military assets rarely single out nations. That said, China’s increasing aggression in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, coupled with Beijing’s ire over U.S. Navy operations in the SCS and B-2 flyovers in recent months, likely contributed to the deployment of the bombers.
In addition, Chinese warships have had close calls with U.S. Navy vessels in the SCS, including one in October in which a People’s Liberation Army Navy destroyer nearly struck an American destroyer, the USS Decatur.
“We will not tolerate threats to American service members. We’re determined to keep international sea lanes open. This is something the Chinese need to understand. Their behavior has been unnecessarily provocative for far too long,” National Security Adviser John Bolton said last fall following the near-collision.
The bombers’ “presence in the Hawaiian Islands stands as a testament to enhanced regional security,” the US military statement added.
The Air Force also touted the B-2’s ability to “penetrate an enemy’s most sophisticated defenses,” as well as “put at risk their most valuable targets” due to its “low-observable, or stealth, characteristics”.
The statement continued, “This training is crucial to maintaining our regional interoperability. It affords us the opportunity to work with our allies in joint exercises and validates our always-ready global strike capability.”
In December Chinese officials issued threats against what was described as American military “meddling in China’s affairs”. For example Dai Xu – President of the Institute of Marine Safety and Cooperation, and a PLA Air Force Colonel Commandant, recently stated: If the U.S. warships break into Chinese waters again, I suggest that two warships should be sent: one to stop it, and another one to ram it… In our territorial waters, we won’t allow US warships to create disturbance.”