U.S. Air Force B-52, Philippine Fighters Patrol Over South China Sea

The long-range heavy bomber takes part in a strategic deterrence mission aimed at reinforcing the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region, DOD said.

A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress and three Philippine Air Force (PAF) FA-50 fighter jets recently participated in a combined air patrol over the South China Sea.

“On [Monday], the [PAF] and the U.S. Pacific Air Forces carried out the Combined Air Patrol as Phase 2 of the 3rd Maritime Cooperative Activity (MCA) within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), covering areas 90 nm west of Candon, Ilocos Sur, and 50 nm northwest of Lubang, Mindoro,” the Philippine Air Force said. “With this activity, the PAF underscores its commitment and readiness to support the [Armed Forces of the Philippines’] efforts in safeguarding the national territory and sovereign rights, and upholding regional peace and security.”

The joint air patrol in the EEZ—an area often subject to territorial disputes with China—was criticized by the Chinese state media as a “political show,” Stars & Stripes reported. 

In a statement, the People’s Liberation Army Southern Theater Command accused the Philippines of collaborating with “countries outside the region to stir up troubles in the South China Sea by organizing the so-called ‘joint air patrol’ and hyping it up publicly.”

The bomber, which is assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, and designated to the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, has been in the region since late January and participated in the three-week Cope North 24 multilateral exercise underway in the Indo-Pacific region.

This year, an estimated 1,700 U.S. airmen, Marines, and sailors were expected to participate in Cope North 24, as well as 700 service members from allied forces. According to the U.S. Air Force, 85 aircraft are expected to fly 1,400 missions across three islands and six airfields.

“These B-52 bombers are part of the bomber task force to support strategic deterrence missions aimed at reinforcing the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region,” Sabrina Singh, deputy Pentagon press secretary, said Thursday. “The 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron will integrate alongside allies and partners to demonstrate U.S. commitment to security and stability throughout the region.”


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