The Air Force deployed three B-2 bombers to Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia, defense officials tell Air Force Times.
U.S. Strategic Command said Spirits deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to the atoll in the Indian Ocean on March 8 to "integrate and conduct training with ally and partner air forces," according to a release.
While Diego Garcia sits closer to the Indian peninsula, the deployment comes at a time of heightened tensions with the Chinese over the South China Sea territory dispute. The Navy carrier John C. Stennis, two destroyers, two cruisers and the 7th Fleet flagship sailed into the area last week, officials told Navy Times.
"These flights ensure we remain ready to deter strategic attack, now and into the future, and are one of the many ways the U.S. demonstrates its commitment to security and stability across the globe," Adm. Cecil D. Haney, U.S. Strategic Command commander, said in the release.
"Recent events demonstrate the continued need to provide consistent and credible air power throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region," Gen. Lori Robinson, Pacific Air Forces commander, added. "Our ability to demonstrate credible combat power while training and inter-operating with our network of like-minded partner nations is vitally important."
B-2s last flew to the Asia-Pacific region in August when they deployed to Guam to bolster ally South Korea. The latest deployment puts the bombers in proximity to the Korean peninsula, where more than 15,000 U.S. and 300,000 South Korean troops have kicked off simultaneous joint military drills — Key Resolve and Foal Eagle — following North Korea's nuclear and long-range missile tests in January and February.
The exercises, the largest in scale since 2010, will continue into early April, officials said.
The command routinely deploys bombers to the Asia and European theaters. Earlier this month, STRATCOM sent three B-52 Stratofortress bombers and more than 200 airmen to Europe for exercise Cold Response led by Norway.
Oriana Pawlyk covers deployments, cyber, Guard/Reserve, uniforms, physical training, crime and operations in the Middle East, Europe and Pacific for Air Force Times. She was the Early Bird Brief editor in 2015. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.