A fifth US Air Force B-2 bomber has flown to RAAF Base Amberley to train with RAAF F-35s amid tension between China and Taiwan.
The UFO-like Spirit can carry nuclear weapons and is thought to be the most expensive aircraft ever made, valued at around $2 billion each.
It comes at the same time China conducted military drills around Taiwan in retaliation to a visit to the island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
On 28 July, a fifth B-2, ‘Spirit of Florida’, flew into the Queensland base to replace ‘Spirit of Alaska’, which departed on 24 July.
It likely amounts to the biggest ever deployment of the US’s most important military jet to Australia, with the country’s active fleet only numbering 20.
In total, six B-2s have visited Base Amberley this year, with one aircraft earlier touching down in March before the current deployment that began in July.
The fleet is visiting from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri as part of an initiative to improve interoperability between the US Air Force and the RAAF’s F-35s. They have been joined by “several” KC-135 Stratotanker refuelling aircraft.
The aircraft to arrive are:
- 82-1068 ‘Spirit of New York’ as RAVE11;
- 82-1070 ‘Spirit of Ohio’ at RAVE12;
- 82-1067 ‘Spirit of Arizona as RAVE21;
- 90-0040 ‘Spirit of Alaska as RAVE22;
- 92-0700 ‘Spirit of Florida’ as LATER 11; and
- (82-1071 ‘Spirit of Mississippi’ arrived and departed on 23 March).
“This deployment of the B-2 to Australia demonstrates and enhances the readiness and lethality of our long-range penetrating strike force,” Lt. Col. Andrew Kousgaard, commander of the 393rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, said earlier.
“We look forward to training and enhancing our interoperability with our RAAF teammates, as well as partners and allies across the Indo-Pacific as we meet PACAF objectives.”
The B-2, better known as the stealth bomber, is a multi-role aircraft capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. It has a crew of two pilots: one in the left seat and a mission commander in the right.
It was first publicly displayed in 1988, when it was rolled out of its hangar at Air Force Plant 42 in California, before its maiden flight the next year.
Its new deployment in Australia comes at the same time as continuing tension in the region.
Last week, a visit to Taiwan by Pelosi led to China testing ballistic missiles over Taipei for the first time.
Then on Monday, China announced new military drills around Taiwan, including joint exercises focusing on anti-submarine and sea assault operations.
Taiwan’s Defence Ministry later claimed to have detected 39 Chinese air force planes and 13 navy ships around the Taiwan Strait.