The Air Force on April 24 flew B-52H Stratofortress bombers to the South China Sea as part of a training mission.

Pacific Air Forces spokeswoman Lt. Col. Megan Schafer said the B-52s took off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, where they conducted a training mission in the vicinity of the South China Sea. The bombers then flew to the Okinawa, Japan, area to train with American F-15C Strike Eagles before returning to Guam.

The bombers were among six B-52s the Air Force deployed to Guam from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana in January.

Schafer did not say how many bombers took part in this mission, but Stars and Stripes reported that it was a pair of Stratofortresses.

The mission comes at a time of increased tension between the United States and China over the contested strategic waterways, where China is constructing a series of man-made islands to support its territorial claims. The U.S. disputes China’s claims, and says its Navy is free to sail through the region, which remain open international waters.

The B-52s, along with 300 airmen, are deployed to Guam to support U.S. Pacific Command’s continuous bomber presence mission. That mission, which has been conducted since March 2004, is meant to reassure allies in the Pacific region and display strength against potential adversaries such as China and North Korea.

“Continuous bomber presence missions are intended to maintain the readiness of U.S. forces [and] are in accordance with international law,” Schafer said.

Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.

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