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FIRST TIME! US B1 Strategic Bombers To Hold Drills With Indian Air Force Amid High-Octane Tensions Between China & Taiwan

Two US B1 strategic bombers of the US Air Force, for the very first time, will participate in India-US air drills amid a rapidly deteriorating situation in the Indo-Pacific region.

The US platforms at the ‘Cope India’ drills will also include a fleet of F-15 E fighter jets, C-130 and C-17 transport aircraft.

The B1 bombers and F-15 E fighters will join the drills later this week, Gen Kenneth S Wilsbach, the commander of the US Pacific Air Force, said. Two B1 bombers had joined the American exhibits at Aero India in Bengaluru in February, but this will be for the first time that the bomber will be part of an exercise in India, news agency PTI reported.

The B-1B Lancer is the USAF’s long-range strategic bomber. The warplane became operational in 1986 and has the largest internal payload as compared to any current bomber.

Due to its low radar cross-section, variable-geometry wings, advanced avionics, and its afterburning engines, the B-1 bomber is capable of carrying the largest payload strike while offering long-range, maneuverability, high speed, and survivability. The aircraft has been projected to remain in service until the year 2040.

The bomber can attain a maximum speed of 1,448 km/h. Its service ceiling is 9,144 kg, and it weighs approximately 86182 kg with a maximum takeoff weight of 216,363 kg.

The deployment of US bombers could be a message to China which is aggressively conducting drills around Taiwan. The Taiwanese Defense Ministry said on Monday that it had recorded the approach of 91 aircraft and 12 vessels of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Four B-1B Lancers at Andersen Guam
Four B-1B Lancers assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, arrive Feb. 6, 2017, at Andersen AFB, Guam.

On Saturday, the Chinese military launched three-day exercises and patrols in the sea and airspace around Taiwan, after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy during a transit visit to the US on her way back from Guatemala and Belize.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry condemned the contacts between US and Taiwanese officials, calling on Washington to stop upgrading relations with the island. Earlier on Monday, the Chinese military said its exercises and patrols had been successfully completed.

“91 PLA aircraft and 12 vessels were detected by 18:00 (UTC+8) on April 10th. 54 of the detected aircraft had crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait,” the ministry said on Twitter.

The ministry noted that although the Chinese side had announced the end of the exercise, the Taiwanese military did not intend to weaken efforts to strengthen combat readiness and would continue to closely monitor the development of the situation in the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan has been governed independently from mainland China since 1949. Beijing views the island as its province, while Taiwan, a territory with its own elected government, maintains that it is an autonomous country but stops short of declaring independence. Beijing opposes any official contacts of foreign states with Taipei and considers Chinese sovereignty over the island indisputable.

The situation around Taiwan escalated last August after then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi traveled to the island. Beijing condemned Pelosi’s trip, which it regarded as a gesture of support for separatism, and launched large-scale military drills in the vicinity of the island.

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