U.S. advances deterrence with Apex Charger II
U.S. Strategic Command
U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress long-range bombers reached the pinnacle of precise and simultaneous execution of global operations and pushed the line of deterrence forward during Operation Apex Charger II in May 2021.
Building on Operation Apex Charger in September 2020, the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), in coordination with four of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Geographic Combatant Commands, put Operation Apex Charger II into motion May 17. The Bomber Task Force event took flight by launching six B-52H nuclear-capable bombers from bases in the United States for training missions around the world, traversing parts of Africa, Europe, the Indo-Pacific and North America.
The event highlighted the ability of U.S. forces to plan, command, control and conduct synchronized air operations on an unmatched global scale. One set of bombers launched from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and flew along the Pacific coasts of Japan and Russia before returning to the continental U.S. over Alaska and Canada.
Another set of bombers launched from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, crossing the Atlantic Ocean to individual routes over the Baltic, Mediterranean and Norwegian seas, as well as the Baltic states, Eastern Europe and North Africa, then landed at Morón Air Base in Spain. The six bombers took off from their respective bases at staggered times to follow routes that placed them simultaneously at strategic points around the globe. (Pictured: Images show a B-52H Stratofortress bomber launching from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and another landing at Morón Air Base, Spain).
To demonstrate the flexibility of Bomber Task Force’s employment model, the aircraft flew their Operation Apex Charger II missions as either part of a return from deployment to the Indo-Pacific region or part of forward deploying to Europe. Prior to adopting the Dynamic Force Employment strategy, the long-range bombers maintained a continuous and predictable presence in the Indo-Pacific region.
The operation further demonstrated the continuous state of readiness, reliability, resilience and freedom of action of U.S., allied and partner nation forces. The global activity took place during a lull in the exercise schedule of Chinese and Russian military forces.
The bombers of Apex Charger II also demonstrated the agility of capabilities supporting global deterrence. Deterrence is an active posture, through diplomatic and military channels, to prevent armed conflict between nations.
The global standard for military deterrence is the U.S.’s nuclear triad, composed of ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, long-range bombers and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. These forces regularly train and exercise for a mission that all hope will never occur. Of the eight nations that acknowledge having nuclear weapons, only three have the air, land and sea capabilities to maintain a nuclear triad: China, Russia and the U.S.
“For the first time in our nation’s history, we are about to face two nuclear-capable strategic peer adversaries at the same time, both of whom must be deterred differently,” U.S. Navy Adm. Charles Richard, commander of STRATCOM, testified recently before the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee.
The elements of deterrence change due to circumstances, but the overall posture must be maintained as a hedge against another world war. While nuclear triads are a primary deterrent to war between global competitors, strong alliances between free nations provide another line of deterrence.
The Apex Charger II long-range bomber flights reinforced cooperation and unity of purpose among allies and partner nations and showed credible military capability to preserve peace. A primary means of cooperation with allied and partner nations is through aircraft conducting integration training with air and ground elements of Armed Forces. For Apex Charger II, participating nations included Denmark, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
“The speed, flexibility and readiness of our strategic bombers play a critical role in our ability to deter potential adversaries and signal our unwavering support to our allies and partners,” Adm. Richard said. “Missions like this provide invaluable training opportunities with our allies and partners to improve our interoperability and demonstrate that our forces are capable of operating anywhere, anytime, to meet any challenge decisively.”
In a new era of strategic competition, the U.S. and its allies and partners stand ready and vigilant to preserve global peace and push deterrence forward.
IMAGE CREDITS: (TOP) SENIOR AIRMAN JACOB B. WRIGHTSMAN/U.S. AIR FORCE; (BOTTOM) 2ND LT. AILEEN LAUER/U.S. AIR FORCE