Why The U.S. Sent Nuclear-Capable B-2s From Missouri To Strike ISIS
When U.S. commanders wanted to destroy remnants of the Islamic State who had regrouped in camps in Libya, they pulled out one of the biggest arrows in the U.S. quiver: the B-2 stealth bomber.
A pair of the radar-evading batwing bombers flew a 30-plus-hour round trip mission from their base in Missouri to deliver more than 100 bombs to wipe out the camps Wednesday night, killing an estimated 80 Islamic State terrorists.
The decision to rely on long-range nuclear-capable bombers based in America’s heartland to carry out a strike halfway around the globe in North Africa prompted some observers to wonder if the U.S. was trying to send a wider message about the long reach of U.S. military.
But outgoing Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the B-2 was simply judged to be the most appropriate weapons platform for the task at hand.
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“It was a decision made by the commanders. It was the best capability to use,” Carter told a Pentagon news conference. “There were other options. We have a vast armamentarium, but this is what the commanders chose.”
“Was it designed to send a message to countries like Russia, China on the eve of the inauguration?” asked one reporter, noting the U.S. has other warplanes based in Europe that could have carried out the strike.
“It shows our willingness to go after ISIL wherever they appear,” said Peter Cook, Pentagon press secretary, who also insisted the selection of the B-2 was based entirely on its suitability to attack the targets in the Libyan desert.
“If there’s a message sent to terrorist around the world, so be it,” he added.
Pentagon officials scoffed at the idea that using the $2 billion stealth bombers was more costly that employing air assets already in theater.