May 4 (UPI) -- Four B1-B Lancer bombers and 200 airmen were deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, from Texas for training operations, the U.S. Air Force announced on Monday.
Three Lancers flew to Guam while one flew "east of Japan to conduct training with U.S. Navy assets operating in the region before heading to Andersen AFB," an Air Force statement said.
The aircraft and personnel are part of the 9th Bomb Squad, 7th Bomb Wing of Dyess Air Force Base in Texas. The length of the deployment was not announced.
The practice of rotating bomber missions through Guam for six-month deployments ended two weeks ago, in favor of a less predictable schedule of deploying the aircraft at bases throughout the world. The Guam-based missions involved patrols over the East and South China Seas to project U.S. air power to North Korea, China and Russia.
B-1s, which can carry a larger missile payload than B-52 bombers, were last deployed to the Indo-Pacific region in 2017.
"Deployments like this allow our airmen to enhance the readiness and training necessary to respond to any potential crisis or challenge across the globe," Col. Ed Sumangil, 7th Bomber Wing commander, said in the statement. "It also provides a valuable opportunity to better integrate with our allies and partners through joint and combined operations and exercises."
The aircraft arrived in Guam on Friday, the day after the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command confirmed that two B-1Bs carried out a 32-hour flight over the South China Sea from Ellsworth AFB, S.D. The region has been active with flight patrols, including surveillance planes, since possible health problems of North Korean leader Kim Jung Un were reported.
Another South Dakota-based B-1B Lancer integrated with the Japan Air Self Defense Force to conduct bilateral and theater familiarization training near Japan last week, the Air Force announced. Its 29-hour round trip included teaming with six U.S. F-16 Fighting Falcons, seven JASDF F-2s and eight JASDF F-15s over the Draughon Range as part of the joint mission between U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and U.S. Strategic Command Bomber Task Force.