Two US B-52 bombers arrived in Indonesia on Monday, marking the first time the nuclear-capable aircraft landed in the Southeast Asian nation as the US is looking to beef up its military presence in the region to prepare for a future war with China.
The bombers are participating in Cope West, a joint military exercise being held from June 12-23 that involves US and Indonesian pilots training together.
“This specific deployment of the B-52s to Indonesia highlights the importance of working with our allies, partners, and other US joint military units as we bolster our collective ability to support a free and open Indo-Pacific,” a US Pacific Air Forces spokesman told Air & Space Forces Magazine.
While the US and Indonesia have military ties, Jakarta wants to remain neutral between Washington and Beijing and has resisted pressure to allow the US military to establish bases on its territory.
Indonesia has also spoken out against some of the US’s military efforts in the region, including AUKUS, the trilateral military pact between the US, Australia, and Britain that will eventually arm Canberra with nuclear-powered submarines.
The presence of US B-52 bombers in the region could become more common as part of Washington and Canberra’s plans to increase military ties involves basing six of the aircraft in Australia. According to Australia’s ABC News, the US will build facilities for the bombers near the city of Darwin that are expected to be completed by 2026.