The US has deployed three B-2 Spirit bombers and 200 airmen to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii for training in the Pacific, Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs revealed Jan. 11, 2019.
The stealth aircraft from Whiteman Air Force Base were deployed to the Pacific to support US Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force mission, a deterrence mission intended to reassure allies and send a clear message to any country that would threaten regional peace and security.
“Deploying to Hawaii enables us to showcase to a large American and international audience that the B-2 is on watch 24 hours a day, seven days a week ready to protect our country and its allies,” Lt. Col. Joshua Dorr, the director of operations for the 393rd Bomber Squadron, explained in a statement.
U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, takes off from Wake Island Airfield Sept. 14, 2018.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Danielle Quilla)
“This training is crucial to maintaining our regional interoperability. It affords us the opportunity to work with our allies in joint exercises and validates our always-ready global strike capability,” he added.
The latest deployment marks the second time B-2 Spirit bombers, which are capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear weapons payloads, have been deployed to Hawaii. During the first deployment, the bombers trained alongside F-22s flown by members of the Hawaii Air National Guard 199th Fighter Squadron.
“The B-2 Spirits’ first deployment to [Pearl Harbor] highlights its strategic flexibility to project power from anywhere in the world,” Maj. Gen. Stephen Williams, the director of air and cyberspace operations at the Pacific Air Forces headquarters, said in a statement in October. 2018
The major general added that the deployment “helped ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific,” rhetoric the US uses regularly to describe moves meant to counter Chinese actions perceived as aggressive or coercive.
A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, lands at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Jan. 10, 2019.
(Photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)
The second deployment comes at a time of heightened tension between the US and China, especially in contested waterways like the South China Sea where China is expanding its military footprint and the US armed forces are responding in kind.
China has reacted aggressively to US military activities in the region, sharply criticizing the US and even threatening US military vessels.
A US Air Force B-2 Spirit deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Danielle Quilla)
The Chinese mainland is protected by an integrated air defense system, and Chinese-occupied territories in the South China Sea are defended by a so-called “wall of SAMs [surface-to-air missiles].”
Despite its large size, the B-2’s low-observable characteristics “give it the ability to penetrate an enemy’s most sophisticated defenses and put at risk their most valuable targets,” Pacific Air Forces noted in their statement on the recent deployment. “Its presence in the Hawaiian Islands stands as a testament to enhanced regional security.”
B-2 bombers deployed to the Pacific in 2017, specifically to Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, to reassure allies and partners during a period defined by alarm over North Korea.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.