The US deployed a fleet of B-1B bombers and 200 airmen to its base at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean that arrived on the island late last week.
The US has deployed B-2 bombers to Diego Garcia in recent years, but the Air Force said it was the first time in 15 years that the US sent B1-Bs to the base.
“It’s been over 15 years since B-1s have operated out of this location and the 37th Bomb Squadron is beyond proud to be back,” said Lt. Col. Ross Hobbs, the director for operations of the Air Force’s 37th Bomb Squadron.
The deployment is seen as a part of Washington’s effort of expanding its military presence to counter China in the region the US now calls the Indo-Pacific, which stretches from the Indian Ocean to the Eastern Pacific.
The base at Diego Garcia has a dark history. The US has used the base to launch airstrikes in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it is said to have been used as a black site to interrogate and torture victims of the CIA.
The US leases the base from the British, who expelled Diego Garcia’s native inhabitants in the 1960s to build the facility. Diego Garcia is part of the Chagos Islands, which belong to the nation of Mauritius in the eyes of the UN. A UN court rejected the UK’s claim to the Chagos, but the British have refused to hand them over.