America Launches Massive Bomber Exercise
Up to 16 B-52s and B-2s train together
This week, up to 16 B-52 and B-2 bombers will take part in a U.S. Strategic Command exercise called Global Lightning 14. This massive training mission may be intended as a warning to Russia or China — or both.
STRATCOM has offered few details about the operation. America’s nuclear command says Global Lightning 14 will test the country’s ability “to deter and detect strategic attacks against the U.S. and its allies.”
Officially, the exercise is not related to any real world events. But the exercise’s timing makes it an especially good response whether that is true or not.
For one, last week Russia conducted a major military exercise involving its own nuclear forces. Pres. Vladimir Putin oversaw the event, which included firing three ballistic missiles.
The Kremlin’s show of force comes as the crisis in Ukraine continues to escalate. Washington and Western Europe say Russia is behind the violence in that country.
China may also be on the Pentagon’s mind. Recent reports say the world’s most populous country may be considering two new Air Defense Identification Zones.
Last November, the People’s Republic announced it set up an ADIZ in the East China Sea. Beijing said aircraft that failed to follow its new rules would risk being shot down.
Two American bombers promptly flew through the zone and ignored the new regulations. The Chinese air force did not attempt to intercept the aircraft.
Global means global
Global Lightning may actually be big enough to send a message to both countries. According to the official press release, “approximately 10 B-52 Stratofortresses and up to six B-2 Spirit bombers” — both seen in the picture above — will fly sorties all week.
We don’t know if all the bombers will ever be in the air at the same time or where they will actually be flying. In April, the flying branch did send out two B-52s and two B-2s on another simulated attack in the Pacific.
Additionally, public affairs officers could not tell us whether the training would involve live bombs and missiles. We also don’t know whether other aircraft like escort fighters or aerial tankers are taking part.
We do know that bombers have carried dummy bombs in previous exercises. For instance, planes dropped simulated weapons on Australia’s Delamere Air Weapons Range in the Northern Territory in 2006 and 2007.
In those same exercises, the big aircraft also needed tankers because of the long distances involved. The flying branch used both KC-135s and KC-10s to support these missions.
The Pentagon clearly wants Global Lightning 14 to be an impressive operation whoever it might be aimed at.