B-1 Bomber Drops Live Munitions in Exercise over South Korea

A B-1 Lancer conducted the bomber’s first live munitions drop over South Korea in seven years on June 5. The one-day drill saw the B-1 from the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squardron, with two Republic of Korea F-15Ks, release live 500-pound GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM).

The bomber and the fighters aimed to hit multiple targets all at once with the exercise, according to a 7th Air Force release.

“This training showcases the incredible capabilities of our combined forces to simultaneously strike multiple targets in a contested environment,” Lt. Gen. David Iverson, U.S. Forces Korea deputy commander and 7th Air Force commander, said in a statement Lt. Col. Christian Hoover, 37th EBS commander, added that the exercise also demonstrated the ability of the B-1 fleet to “conduct precision targeting and strike with live weapons in an unfamiliar location.”

JDAM, a GPS-equipped guidance kit, transforms unguided bombs into precision munitions. JDAM-class weapons are the most frequent air-to-ground munition expended in combat, and the system can be fitted onto all U.S. fighters and bombers.

After the munitions drop, the B-1 joined U.S. Air Force’s F-16s and KC-135 Stratotankers; Marine Corps F-35Bs; and ROK Air Force F-35As and KF-16s, for more air-to-air training over the Korean Peninsula.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry said the deployment of the B-1 bomber is part of the extended deterrence commitment between the two nations, reaffirmed during the Defense Ministers’ meeting in Singapore on June 2.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III met with ROK Minister of Defense Shin Won-sik on June 2 at the as part of the annual Shangri-la Dialogue. Austin also met with Japanese Minister of Defense Kihara Minoru to discuss initiatives aimed at enhancing security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. They condemned North Korea’s recent actions, including nuclear delivery system tests, ballistic missile launches, and illicit arms transfers with Russia.

Austin and the two ministers agreed to implement the first iteration of a new, multidomain trilateral exercise, ‘Freedom Edge,’ this summer.

The bomber exercise comes amid a new surge in tensions between North and South Korea. North Korea recently launched hundreds of balloons filled with trash across the border, prompting the South Korean government to fully suspend the inter-Korean military agreement signed in 2018 that was meant to foster trust between the two countries.