In a show of military might, the US Air Force has recently deployed its B-1B Lancer strategic bombers to Japan, following the stationing of fifth-generation F-22 fighters. These American strategists are now positioned at the Misawa Air Base in the northern region of Honshu.
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Initially based at Dies Air Force Base in Texas, the exact location of the B-1B Lancers’ arrival in Japan remains undisclosed. Interestingly, this news follows recent reports of similar strategists from the same airbase spending time in Sweden. The bombers dispatched to Japan are set to participate in the Northern Edge 2023 multinational military exercise, which is scheduled to continue until July 21. This move is also seen as a signal to China and Russia of America’s global situational control.
The US Air Force stated, “Our robust and dependable strategic bomber force bolsters the security and stability of our allies and partners. Operational group bombing missions maintain high levels of readiness and proficiency among our aircrews, while also demonstrating our commitment to provide rapid global strike capabilities.”
Japan is also host to the F-22 fighter jets, currently stationed at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Alaska. Notably, from Misawa Air Base, where the B-1B Lancer bombers are now stationed, it’s a mere 470 km to the Russian Kurils.
For context, the B-1 Lancer, also known as Rockwell International B-1 Lancer – Ulan, is a versatile bomber designed to replace the Boeing B-52 under the AMSA program initiated in 1965. It was the first combat aircraft to employ “Stealth” technology elements extensively in its design.
Serving the US Air Force since July 27, 1985, the B-1 underwent a conversion process in the early 1990s to equip it with conventional weaponry. The bomber’s final version (B-1B) incorporated a strategy for breaching low-altitude air defenses through ultra-low terrain-avoidance flight.
Russia is also “acting” near Japan
In an unexpected turn of events, the Russian Pacific fleet, under the command of President Vladimir Putin, conducted unanticipated maneuvers in the Bering and Okhotsk seas on mid-April this year. This move, part of a sudden check on the fleet’s combat readiness, sent ripples of concern through Tokyo, particularly when the Pacific fleet showcased a large-scale deployment of its warships.
Interestingly, it wasn’t the fleet of warships that caused the most worry, but rather the deployment of two Tupolev Tu-95 ‘Bear’ strategic bombers. These formidable machines took off from their base and made a swift approach towards Japan’s air defense zone, later patrolling the Bering and Okhotsk seas. The expert military commentators in the region were taken aback by the aggressive posture of the Russian fleet, interpreting it as a potential threat to Japan.
The surprise deployment and the subsequent patrolling by the bombers, capable of carrying nuclear warheads, were viewed as a serious threat by Japan. This led to a swift response from the Japanese Cabinet of Ministers, with Secretary General Hirokazu Matsuno sending a formal note of protest to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
These maneuvers occurred near the disputed Kuril Islands, an archipelago claimed by both Russia and Japan. Four of these islands are currently under Japanese control, with the most recent addition being a gift from a private investor to the government in Tokyo. In response to Japan’s protest, the Russian Foreign Ministry maintained that all activities were conducted within international law and norms. However, this assurance may do little to quell the rising tensions in the region.
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