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The Unprecedented Alliance: US B1 Strategic Bombers Join Indian Air Force in Joint Drills amidst Escalating China-Taiwan Tensions

For the first time ever, two US Air Force B1 strategic bombers will participate in joint air drills with India amid escalating tensions in the Indo-Pacific region. These drills, known as ‘Cope India,’ will also involve F-15 E fighter jets, C-130 and C-17 transport aircraft. General Kenneth S Wilsbach, the commander of the US Pacific Air Force, confirmed that the B1 bombers and F-15 E fighters will join the exercises later this week. While two B1 bombers were present at the Aero India exhibition in Bengaluru in February, this will be their inaugural participation in a drill in India, as reported by news agency PTI.

The B-1B Lancer, a long-range strategic bomber, entered operational service with the USAF in 1986 and boasts the largest internal payload among all current bombers. Equipped with advanced avionics, variable-geometry wings, afterburning engines, and low radar cross-section, the B-1 bomber offers exceptional strike capabilities, maneuverability, high speed, and survivability. The aircraft is expected to remain in service until 2040.

With a top speed of 1,448 km/h and a service ceiling of 9,144 kg, the B-1 bomber weighs approximately 86,182 kg, with a maximum takeoff weight of 216,363 kg.

The deployment of US bombers may carry a message to China, which has been aggressively conducting drills near Taiwan. The Taiwanese Defense Ministry reported the approach of 91 aircraft and 12 vessels belonging to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). In response, the Chinese military initiated three-day exercises and patrols in the sea and airspace surrounding Taiwan after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s visit to the US and meeting with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. China’s Foreign Ministry condemned the US-Taiwanese contacts, urging Washington to refrain from enhancing relations with the island.

Although the Chinese military announced the successful completion of its exercises and patrols, the Taiwanese military remains vigilant, emphasizing their commitment to bolstering combat readiness and closely monitoring developments in the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan has governed independently from mainland China since 1949, considering itself an autonomous country, while Beijing regards it as a province and opposes any official foreign interactions with Taipei. The situation in the Taiwan Strait escalated last August following a visit by then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, prompting large-scale military drills by China near the island.

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