U.S. B-1B bomber holds bombing drills in S. Korea for 1st time in 7 years

June 5, 2024

The United States on Wednesday deployed one B-1B bomber for joint bombing drills in South Korea for the first time in seven years amid heightened tensions over North Korea’s trash balloon campaign and GPS jamming attacks.

The U.S. heavy bomber from Andersen Air Base in Guam and two South Korean F-15K fighters released live GBU-38, 500-pound joint direct attack munitions, to strike multiple simulated targets at Pilsung Range in Taebaek, 181 kilometers southeast of Seoul, according to the U.S. 7th Air Force in South Korea.

U.S. B-1B bombers last held such an exercise in South Korea in 2017.

“Under close coordination between South Korea and the United States, this exercise took place with a focus on implementing the U.S. extended deterrence commitment and strengthening the combined defense posture,” the defense ministry said in a release.

Extended deterrence refers to America’s commitment to using the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear weapons, to defend an ally.

“The security of the Korean Peninsula is a top priority for the U.S., and training events like this one demonstrate our ironclad commitment to defend our alliance and uphold regional stability,” Lt. Gen. David Iverson, commander of the 7th Air Force, said in a separate release.

The U.S. bomber also staged joint air-to-air training with South Korean F-35A and KF-16 fighters, as well as U.S. F-35B and F-16 jets over the country’s western region, according to the 7th Air Force.

The allies’ apparent show of force came amid heightened tensions over the North’s recent provocative acts, including its sending of around 1,000 trash-carrying balloons into the South since May 28, which prompted Seoul to fully suspend a 2018 inter-Korean military pact on Tuesday.

The North also jammed GPS signals in waters near the South’s northwestern border islands last week, fired short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea on Thursday and made a botched attempt to launch a military spy satellite on May 27.

The B-1 carries the largest conventional payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the U.S. Air Force inventory, according to the 7th Air Force.