After Kim Jong Un’s decision to test a new long-range ballistic missile as a “gift for the American bastards” on the 4th of July, the United States teamed up with allies South Korea and Japan to deliver a not-so subtle response.  On July 7th, two U.S. B-1B Lancer Bombers departed from Anderson Air Force Base in Guam and made the trek to a bombing range near the North Korean border to deliver some mock ordnance as a demonstration of how quickly, and accurately, U.S. forces can strike.

The B-1Bs were accompanied by South Korean F-15K Slam Eagle fighters and U.S. Air Force F-16C fighters throughout the 2,000 mile round trip to the Pilsung bombing range and back, where they dropped a joint directed attack munition (JDAM) GPS-guided bomb onto a simulated North Korean missile launcher.  Local media reported that each aircraft dropped one 2,000 pound GBU-56 laser-guided JDAM, an improved version of the storied JDAM satellite guided bomb that has been in use since 1997.

“North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland,” said Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander. “Let me be clear, if called upon we are trained, equipped and ready to unleash the full lethal capability of our allied air forces.”

During the return flight to Guam, the U.S. B-1B bombers were accompanied by Japanese Air Self Defense Force F-2 fighters over the East China Sea.  The United States has pledged to support Japan in their ongoing territorial dispute with an island chain in the region known as the Diaoyu Islands to China and Senkaku Islands to Japan.

“The U.S.-Japan alliance and the relationship between our militaries are stronger than they have ever been,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Jerry P. Martinez, U.S. Forces Japan commander. “We continue to train with our Japanese allies to ensure we are ready to defend ourselves from attack.”

One day prior, a pair of U.S. B-1Bs that also departed from Andersen Air Base in Guam were joined by two Japanese F-15J fighters for a “freedom of navigation” exercise over the East and South China Seas.  These flights were rebuked by Chinese officials as provocations, due to their claims of sovereignty over the majority of the heavily trafficked waterways.

The B-1B Lancer Bomber is one of three heavy bombers employed by the U.S. Air Force.  It was originally conceived as a penetration bomber intended to deliver nuclear payloads deep within Soviet territory, but has since been refit to conduct non-nuclear ordnance delivery operations.  Its high maximum speed, maneuverability, and 75,000 pound payload capacity make it a formidable part of America’s airborne defenses.

The GBU-56 JDAM platform combines on-board satellite and inertial guidance systems with laser targeting to adjust the flight path of the bomb as it travels from the aircraft to the target, allowing for an extremely high level of accuracy, and even the ability to hit moving targets.   The JDAM system can be “bolted on” to convert traditional “dumb” unguided, gravity bombs into precision target capable platforms by employing a tail section with aerodynamic control surfaces in addition to the guidance systems.