Thursday, November 22, 2007

Things I'm thankful for

1)B-2 bombers

2)The airmen who fly and maintain them

3)Putting the Norks and any *other* adversaries on notice

HONOLULU - More than 18,000 feet above the mountains on Hawaii's biggest island, two B-2 stealth bombers drop six 2,000-pound inert bombs on a training range below.

It's a scene being repeated monthly as the Air Force's sleek, boomerang-shaped planes use Hawaii for target practice. The aim is to make sure pilots are trained and ready to act if needed. The bombers have been assigned to Guam to deter North Korea and to fill gaps in the regional U.S. military presence created by deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.


The planes have been flying test runs over Hawaii and Alaska since the Pentagon began rotating bombers through Guam in 2004. But they only started dropping inert bombs on the Big Island's Pohakuloa Training Area last month.

In the past, pilots only simulated dropping weapons over the islands. Now, they can see whether the bombs they release land where they are supposed to.

The planes are equipped to drop "smart" bombs, or weapons guided to their targets by GPS technology. But they don't use it in the Hawaii drills.

Instead, the airmen rely on gravity — and extensive data on wind speed and elevation — to deliver their unarmed bombs to the right spot.


Bruce Bechtol, a professor at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College in Quantico, Va., said North Korea refers to the Guam bomber deployments in its propaganda, indicating it felt their presence.

Pyongyang realizes the U.S. would use the planes to respond if the North attacked South Korea, said Bechtol, an expert on air power on the Korean peninsula. It is also well aware of planes and forces the U.S. has amassed in Japan that could be used against it, he said.

"This all affects how North Korea looks at their foreign policy, how they look at the type of behavior they may engage in with their neighbor," Bechtol said.