It is a little more than a month ago. Something happened when half of the world was in deep slumber and the rest half was not awake to the new episode slowly unfolding in the remote island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean where three US Air Force B-2A bombers, which took off from Whiteman Air Force Base Missouri in the early hours of August 11, 2020, were deployed. They, launched from their home base, headed towards west, flew over the Pacific Ocean, crossed Hawaii, moved onwards for a scheduled fly across northern Australia, and resumed their journey towards west to the destination island airbase.
The famously known B-2 mission saw the aircraft carrying the callsigns Reaper 11, Reaper 12, and Reaper 13. The mission led to the deployment of six USAF B-52Hs to the remote base earlier in 2020. The latest development is seen as a response to the rising tension with Iran. Deployment of B-2 stealth bombers to remote Diego Garcia is a clear indication that the US Air Force is rich in their strategic military assets which they can deploy in the region as soon as these are required. Regional commanders can utilize the stealthy capabilities of the B-2 to carry on long-range ‘Point and Penetrate’ missions into heavily cordoned zones.
The deployment has added to the rising speculations about what is ‘NEXT’ amidst the simmering tensions in the South China Sea. Furthermore, the deployment took place just before the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) went ahead with their planned staging of a series of exercises, which is widely believed as a step to stimulate the intended invasion of the Taiwanese Islands. The Indo-Pacific region has recently seen a huge increase in military activities, with more US-led trilateral military exercises supposed to add fuel to the brewing brawls in the coming months.
The last B-2 deployment to Diego Garcia was in March 2016 amidst tightened security concerns in the region. The latest deployment by the USAF clearly demonstrates the continued need to supply consistent, credible, and clever air power in the Indo-Asia Pacific region.
Why Diego Garcia?
Readers might feel curious to know why B-2 stealth bombers are deployed in Diego Garcia. It is one of those few locations well equipped to make room for B-2s. Furthermore, the zone also has four climate-controlled clamshell hangars. On time-travel back to history, one can easily trace the use of the same base to shelter long-range bomber missions into Central Asia and Middle East. Its strategic location implies bomber crews must cover very long-endurance missions to reach these areas, more than 10 hours to reach Afghanistan.
Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar has emerged as a favored operating location for B-1s and B-52s of Air Force Global Strike Command in recent times. The reason could be attributed to its proximity to the Middle East operational theatres. On the downside, it runs the risks of coming within the range of Iran’s ballistic missiles. It’s significantly away from the Pacific hotspots.
When AFGSC (Air Force Global Strike Command) dispatched six B-52Hs to Diego Garcia earlier in 2020 as their planned preparation to respond to any possible aggression by Iran, they made sure to stay safely out of the range of Tehran’s missile mission. The picture is still shoddy and so leaves us with enough scope of speculations whether the latest deployment is planned to be a strategic show of muscle power in the Pacific Region or whether the B-2s’ deployment is in response to the US Central Command (CENTCOM) requirements, a seminal stimulant for the deployment.
The strategic location of Diego Garcia, beyond supporting bomber missions, offers a private staging post and operation base. The place is ideally located to support long missions into the range of possible hotspots including the Pacific Regions, East Africa and Middle East. The island lagoon is used not only as an airbase but also to lift one of two Military Sealift Command’s Prepositioning Ship Squadrons. Loaded with equipment and munitions, its ships are ready to respond to any crisis on an urgent basis.
The B-2’s deployment in Diego Garcia follows the USAF’s 16-year Bomber Presence at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam coming to an end in April, 2020 as the Air Force wanted to change the predictability of the rotating deployment series of the Bomber Task Force. It’s in keeping with the operational unpredictability and strategic predictability as a part of objective planning by the National Defense Strategy. A dynamic mission employment is not the only thing on their mind as the strategic planning stretches to the B-2’s dynamic basing.
The US Air Force officially announces that it is now focused on dispatching smaller bomber with low predictability to the region. According to the USAF, the move is a part of their new dynamic force deployment model. AFGSC chief General Timothy Ray, while talking about the new strategy says, “We can come and go anytime they need us, we don’t need to be there physically”. It clearly implies that bombers can launch round-the-globe operations even if they are not permanently stationed at the bases abroad.
B-2 deployment at Diego Garcia is a harbinger of a series of events likely to take place in the not very distant future. We will keep you updated on the latest development.
Hello, I am a friendly homo sapiens with necessary compliments to see, feel sense and taste that comes my way and even sometimes, from a distance. I have interest in many things but all of them US politics is a must-have dish for my breakfast, launch, and dinner. I am passionate but not obsessed with US politics. I visit new ideas, revisit and refresh mine if and whenever necessary to see and assess the US politics without any ideological spectacles on but only with my commitment to truth and honesty.