US Bombers Conduct Sorties Over South China Sea

Indo-Pacific Command says overflight meant to assure allies

US Indo-Pacific Command has reported US bomber overflights into the South China Sea, a 32-hour operation flying B-1B Lancers over contested areas which the US opposes Chinese claims to. They say the overflights are meant to assure allies.

Recently, most US military action in South China Sea has been from the Navy, where warships sail near Chinese-claimed islands mostly to try to provoke a Chinese reaction. The planes, however, seem to be part of a general escalation, after a similar operation of US warplanes near Japan last week.

With the US Navy constantly strained, the use of planes might be a more convenient option for the US. At the same time, US planes flying deep into Chinese territory to challenge China creates an even bigger risk of a confrontation in the area.

Officials are presenting these as “deterrence missions” as a way to justify them. The US military almost certainly wouldn’t consider comparable operations from China over US territory a “deterrence,” however, and if anything these are deliberately provocative.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of