An American B-1B Lancer strategic bomber and F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets accompanied by South Korean military aircraft have conducted simulated bombing drills in the skies over South Korea amid rising tensions on the peninsula, Yonhap News Agency says.
The maneuvers are part of the unprecedented joint air force Vigilant Ace 18 drills which kicked off Monday.
The drills staged by the US and South Korea feature hundreds of warplanes conducting mock attacks on North Korean nuclear and missile objects in different war scenarios, but are claimed to be of a “defensive nature.”
On Wednesday, the US Air Force dispatched B-1B aircraft, F-22 Raptor fighter jets, as well as several F-35 stealth jets and F-16 fighter planes to take part in joint drills at the Pilsung Firing Range in Gangwon Province, Yonhap reports, citing the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Seoul sent F-15Ks and KF-16s to join the American squadron.
The total number of warplanes taking part in the maneuvers was not revealed, and there could be more than one B-1B bomber. But Washington usually sends two B-1Bs to the area.
It is the first time the fifth-generation jets joined the Vigilant Ace exercise.
The B-1B, commonly referred as the ‘Bone,’ is a heavy strategic bomber used by the US Air Force. It can deliver non-precision gravity bombs, with a maximum speed of 1,450kph and takeoff weight of up to 216,000kg.
The bombers have been deployed in combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001. At least six such warplanes are reportedly stationed in the US base in Guam in the western Pacific Ocean, and Washington could use them for a preemptive strike on North Korea’s missile sites, according to NBC.