B-1B Lancer makes closest flight ever to North Korea
Osan Air Base -- The strength of a powerful alliance was the catalyst for something historical on the Korean Peninsula as the B-1B Lancer performed a low-level flight near the DMZ, the closest a Lancer has ever flown to the border of the Republic of Korea and North Korea.
As part of the continuing demonstration of the steadfast United States’ commitment to the Republic of Korea’s defense, the B-1B strategic bomber flew from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, landing at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Sept. 21. This is the first time the bomber has landed on the Korean peninsula since 1996.
Military leadership stated the mission was further evidence of the alliance’s determination to safeguard the Republic of Korea in response to a recent provocative action by North Korea Sept. 9.
“The bond between the United States and the Republic of Korea is ironclad and the strength of that commitment will not be shaken by North Korea’s aggressive behavior,” said Lt. Gen. Thomas W. Bergeson, 7th Air Force commander. “What we are showing today is just one tool we have to choose from a wide array of options. The alliance grows stronger every day and we remain prepared to defend and to preserve the security of the Korean Peninsula and the region.”
Lieutenant Gen. Lee, Wang-keun, ROK Air Force Operations commander, also stressed the importance of the Alliance’s commitment to the safety and security of the ROK.
"The Korean Peninsula faces a grave security crisis as a result of North Korea’s fifth nuclear experiment, along with its continued launching of submarine-launched ballistic missiles and ballistic missiles, despite the concerns of the international community,” said Lee. “The ROK-US Combined Air Forces, acutely aware of this climactic situation, maintains a close information-sharing and robust combined-operational capability.”
The aircraft commander of the mission said he was honored be a part of such a historic event and said his communication with Osan officials was flawless.
“It was a simple and seamless process,” said Capt. Bret Cunningham, 34th Bomber Squadron instructor pilot. “I have flown similar missions but nothing quite like this. It is an experience I will never forget.”
The B-1B is capable of carrying the largest payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the Air Force inventory. It can rapidly deliver massive quantities of precision and non-precision weapons against any adversary, anywhere in the world, at any time. The aircraft holds almost 50 world records for speed, payload, range, and time of climb in its class.
A crew of more than 20 B-1B maintainers arrived at Osan a few days ahead of the landing to make preparations. One of those maintainers was Tech Sgt. Tywone Weston, a jet propulsion craftsman with the 34th Maintenance Squadron.
“The base has been very helpful,” said Weston. “We have had great support and have not had any hang-ups. It is a great feeling to take part in such a historic mission.”
The landing follows a flyover conducted on Sept. 13, as just a first step in furthering the strength of the alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea.