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U.S. B-52 bomber to land in Korea for first time

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A U.S. B-52 strategic bomber flies at the front of a formation with F-15K Slam Eagle strike fighters and KF-16 fighter jets above the West Sea during a joint drill on March 6. [DEFENSE MINISTRY]
A U.S. B-52 strategic bomber flies at the front of a formation with F-15K Slam Eagle strike fighters and KF-16 fighter jets above the West Sea during a joint drill on March 6. [DEFENSE MINISTRY]

A U.S. B-52 strategic bomber will land at Osan Air Base this week, marking the aircraft’s first landing on the Korean Peninsula.

It will also be the first time the bomber lands at an air base outside U.S. territory.

According to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity to the Korea JoongAng Daily, the B-52, also known as the Stratofortress, will land at Osan this week and conduct flyovers during the 2023 Seoul International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition (ADEX) held in Seoul Airport, south of Seoul, from Tuesday through Sunday.

The B-52’s participation in the Seoul ADEX this year was announced during a press briefing held Monday, a day before the event’s official start.

The B-52 is one of the U.S. military’s three major operational bombers, along with the B-1B Lancer and B-2 Spirit.

Armed with nuclear weapons until 2020, B-52 strategic bombers previously participated in joint drills between South Korea and the United States. However, they always returned afterward to an air base in Guam, never landing in South Korea.

The B-1B Lancer, incapable of carrying nuclear weapons, is the only bomber among the three that has landed in South Korea.

According to the Seoul ADEX Co-organizing Office, the B-52 will conduct flyovers 1,300 to 1,500 feet above the ground, allowing visitors to observe the aircraft with the naked eye.

The flyovers are expected to take place during the event’s opening ceremony on Tuesday.

The B-52 bomber can carry a maximum of 31 tons of explosives and has a flight range of 6,400 kilometers (4,000 miles).

According to the Korea Aerospace Industries Association, the B-52 bomber is one of the major U.S. military assets that keeps North Korea in check.

A B-52 flight across the Korean Peninsula during a joint drill by the South Korean and U.S. air forces in March so worried North Korea that it drove Kim Yo-jong, the sister of regime leader Kim Jong-un, to say her country was ready to take “swift and overwhelming actions.”

U.S. Air Force Col. Charles Cameron said Monday that an unprecedented number of U.S. servicemen will participate in this year’s ADEX to underline the “ironclad” nature of the South Korea-U. S. alliance, which marked its 70th anniversary this year.

Some 200 personnel from the U.S. Forces Korea are expected to participate and support the 6-day fair.

The U.S. Army will showcase its main ground forces at the outdoor exhibition, including M1135 Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Reconnaissance Vehicle (NBCRV) and M270 multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS).

The U.S. Air Force will display its B-1B Lancer, C-5 Galaxy and F-22 Raptor.

U.S. aircraft manufacturer Boeing is one of 203 companies from overseas participating in the fair. The company, which supplies aircraft, satellite and weapons systems to 150 countries, will showcase F-15 cockpit simulators at its indoor booth.

BY CHO JUNG-WOO [cho.jungwoo1@joongang.co.kr]