Washington (CNN)The US, South Korea and Japan agreed this week to shift a planned flight of at least two nuclear-capable B-52 bombers so they would not fly over the Korean Peninsula, according to two US defense officials.
The decision was made in the wake of North Korea’s objection to US military exercises in the region and a suggestion from Pyongyang that the upcoming summit between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump could be at risk. North Korea threatened to cancel the planned summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, saying the US should carefully consider the fate of the upcoming meeting, in view of what it calls “provocative military disturbances with South Korea,” North Korea’s state news agency reported early Wednesday local time.North Korea warns US as it suspends South Korea talks over military drills Officials said Friday it was not clear to them whether the decision to shift the route of the aircraft was in response to Kim’s statement but noted the move was part of an effort to try to ease the prospect of North Korea being able to claim the US was engaging in provocative behavior. The officials insist the bomber missions, which have been going on for several years, are not considered military exercises.Read MoreOfficially, the Pentagon refused to comment. “We continue to coordinate with our allies but for operational security reasons we cannot comment on future or ongoing operations. This would also include our decision-making process,” said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan. Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetB-52 Stratofortress – The first versions of this long-range heavy bomber flew in 1954. A total of 744 were built, the last of those in 1962. The Air Force maintains 58 B-52s in the active force and 18 in the Reserve. A single B-52 can carry 70,000 pounds of mixed munitions, including bombs, missiles and mines. The eight-engine jets have a range of 8,800 miles.Hide Caption 1 of 24 Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetC-130 Hercules transport – A C-130J Super Hercules from the 37th Airlift Squadron flies over Normandy, France, June 3, 2015. First delivered to the Air Force in 1956, the C-130 remains one of the service’s most important airlift platforms. More than 140 are still in active units, with more than 180 in the National Guard and a hundred more in the Reserve. The C-130 is powered by four turboprop engines.Hide Caption 2 of 24 Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetAC-130 gunships – The AC-130H Spectre and the AC-130U Spooky gunships are designed for close air support, air interdiction and force protection. Armaments on the Spectre include 40mm and 105mm cannons. The Spooky adds a 25mm Gatling gun.Hide Caption 3 of 24 Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetF-22 Raptor – The twin-engine F-22 stealth fighter, flown by a single pilot and armed with a 20mm cannon, heat-seeking missiles, radar-guided missiles and radar-guided bombs, can perform both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. The service has 183 of the Raptors, which went operational in 2005.Hide Caption 4 of 24 Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetThe single-engine F-35A is the Air Force’s eventual replacement for the F-16 and the A-10. The supersonic jets, which will be able to conduct air-to-air and air-to-ground attacks, are just beginning to enter the Air Force fleet. Here, an F-35 Lightning II from the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, flys at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, April 15, 2017.Hide Caption 5 of 24 Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetB-2 Spirit bomber – The four-engine B-2 heavy bomber has stealth properties that make it hard to detect on radar. Flown by a crew of two, it has an unrefueled range of 6,000 miles and can deliver both conventional and nuclear bombs. Twenty B-2s are in the active inventory. They joined the fleet in 1997.Hide Caption 6 of 24 Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetB-1B Lancer bomber – The four-engine jet can fly at 900 mph and carry the largest payload of bombs and missiles in the Air Force inventory. The Air Force has 62 B-1Bs in the fleet.Hide Caption 7 of 24 Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetF-15 Eagle – The F-15 Eagle, the Air Force’s main air superiority fighter, became operational in 1975. With a crew of one or two, depending on the model, the twin-engine jets are armed with a 20mm cannon along with Sidewinder or AMRAAM missiles. The Air Force lists 249 F-15 Eagles in its inventory.Hide Caption 8 of 24 Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetF-15E Strike Eagle – The Strike Eagle is a version of the air superiority fighter adapted to perform ground-strike missions. With a crew of two, the twin-jet can carry and deploy most weapons in the Air Force inventory and operate in any weather. The F-15E was first delivered in 1988. The Air Force lists 219 in its fleet.Hide Caption 9 of 24 Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetA-10 Thunderbolt – The A-10 Thunderbolt jets, nicknamed “Warthogs,” are specially designed for close air support of ground forces. Key to their armaments is a 30mm Gatling gun. The pilot is protected from ground fire by titanium armor, and the plane’s fuel cells are self-sealing in case of puncture. Hide Caption 10 of 24 Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetRC-135U – The RC-135U Combat Sent, based at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, provides strategic electronic reconnaissance information to the president, secretary of defense, Department of Defense leaders and theater commanders.Hide Caption 11 of 24 Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetAn F-15 Eagle takes off from the Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, flight line as two E-3 Sentries are seen in the background.Hide Caption 12 of 24 Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetOV-10 Bronco – A 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron OV-10 Bronco aircraft fires white phosphorus rockets to mark a target for an air strike during tactical air control training. Hide Caption 13 of 24 Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetA-29 Super Tucano – An A-29 Super Tucano taxis on the flightline during its first arrival, Sept. 26, 2014, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. Afghan Air Force pilots trained on the planes that will be used in air-to-ground attack missions in Afghanistan.Hide Caption 14 of 24 Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetKC-135 Stratotanker – The four-engine KC-135 joined the Air Force fleet in 1956 as both a tanker and cargo jet. It can carry up to 200,000 pounds of fuel and 83,000 pounds of cargo and passengers in a deck above the refueling system. More than 400 of the KC-135s are flown by active, Air Guard and Reserve units.Hide Caption 15 of 24 Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetF-16 Fighting Falcon – The single-engine jet is a mainstay of the Air Force combat fleet. It can perform both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions with its 20mm cannon and ability to carry missiles and bombs on external pods. More than 1,000 F-16s are in the Air Force inventory.Hide Caption 16 of 24 Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetC-17 Globemaster transport – The four-engine jet joined the Air Force fleet in 1993 with a primary mission of troop and cargo transport. Each plane can carry up to 102 troops or 170,900 pounds of cargo. The Air Force has 187 C-17s on active duty, 12 in the Air National Guard and 14 in the Reserve.Hide Caption 17 of 24 Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetC-5 Galaxy transport – The C-5, with a wingspan of 222 feet, a length of 247 feet and a height of 65 feet, is the largest plane in the Air Force inventory and one of the largest aircraft in the world. The first versions of the four-engine jet joined the force in 1970. The Air Force expects to have 52 versions of the latest model, the C-5M, in the fleet by 2017.Hide Caption 18 of 24 Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetCV-22 Osprey – The Osprey is a tiltrotor aircraft that combines vertical takeoff, hover and landing qualities of a helicopter with the normal flight characteristics of a turboprop aircraft, according to the Air Force. It is used to move troops in and out of operations as well as resupply units in the field. The Air Force has 33 Ospreys in inventory.Hide Caption 19 of 24 Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetE-3 Sentry AWACS – AWACS stands for airborne warning and control system. This four-engine jet, based on a Boeing 707 platform, monitors and manages battle space with its huge rotating radar dome. The planes have a flight crew of four supporting 13 to 19 specialists and controllers giving direction to units around the battle space. The Air Force has 32 E-3s in inventory.Hide Caption 20 of 24 Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetKC-10 Extender – Based on the DC-10 passenger jet, the triple-engine KC-10 is a gas station in the sky with the ability to carry 75 people and 170,000 pounds of cargo. In its six tanks, the KC-10 can carry up to 356,000 pounds of fuel and dispense it while airborne. The Air Force has 59 KC-10s on active duty.Hide Caption 21 of 24 Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetT-38 Talon – The twin-engine jet trainer, used by the Air Force to prepare pilots for the F-15E Strike Eagle, F-15C Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, B-1B Lancer, A-10 Thunderbolt and F-22 Raptor, first flew in 1959. Almost 550 are in the active force.Hide Caption 22 of 24 Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetU-2 – The single-engine, single-pilot U-2 is used for high-altitude reconnaissance and surveillance. Flying at altitudes around 70,000 feet, pilots must wear pressure suits like those worn by astronauts. The first U-2 was flown in 1955. The planes were used on missions over the Soviet Union during the Cold War, flying too high to be reached by any adversary. The Air Force has 33 U-2s in its active inventory.Hide Caption 23 of 24 Photos: In the U.S. Air Force fleetWC-135 Constant Phoenix – The four-engine WC-135 is used to fly through airspace to detect the residue of nuclear blasts. “The aircraft is equipped with external flow-through devices to collect particulates on filter paper and a compressor system for whole air samples collected in holding spheres,” the Air Force says. It has two of these jets in the active force.Hide Caption 24 of 24But Logan also noted “continuous Bomber Presence missions are part of a routine, forward deployed, deterrence capability supporting regional security and our allies in the Indo-Pacific region.”Speaking on Friday, the officials said the B-52s which took off from Guam and landed back there, were on a flight that began 24-48 hours earlier. They flew south/southeast of the Korean Peninsula but stayed out of South Korean airspace.The Wall Street Journal was first to report the altered plans.On Thursday, the Pentagon told CNN that the decision not to include B-52 bombers in the ongoing Max Thunder military drills “was made long before the DPRK’s remarks on May 16 about diplomatic meetings and summits.””The B-52 non-participation is NOT tied to this week’s events or communications. The Republic of Korea and United States will continue to cooperate fully to set the conditions for successful diplomatic efforts while maintaining a foundation of military readiness,” a statement from the Pentagon said.The last resort: How a US strike on North Korea could play outUS bombers have been seen regularly over the Korean Peninsula in recent months amid escalating tensions with Pyongyang — running regular training flights with Japanese and South Korean fighter jets that often provoke the ire of the North Korean regime.