An attack by Rockwell B-1 Lancer supersonic heavy bombers from Andersen Air Force Base in the US territory of Guam makes up a major part of the plan, senior acting and retired military officials told NBC news.
“Of all the military options … [President Donald Trump] could consider, this would be one of the two or three that would at least have the possibility of not escalating the situation,” retired Admiral James Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe and an NBC News analyst, said.
At least six B-1B bombers are currently at the base, which is located some 3,200km from North Korea, NBC reports.
The B-1B, manufactured by Boeing, has served in the US military since 1985, according to data from the company. Its maximum takeoff weight can reach 216,000kg.
Nicknamed “The Bone,” the plane can reach a speed of 1,450kph. The bombers have been deployed during combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001.
Around two dozen North Korean “missile-launch sites, testing grounds and support facilities” would be apparent targets of the US military planes, according to sources cited by NBC.
However, the plan involving B-1 bombers is not the only option as an attack may also come from “land and sea — and cyber.”
While admitting that “there is no good option,” a senior intelligence official with a knowledge of the matter said bomber strikes remain “the best of a lot of bad options.”
Implementing such a strike plan, however, could trigger an escalation of the crisis, Stavridis warned. He pointed out that North Korea would respond “at a minimum against South Korea,” while in the event of larger military action, it would not spare Guam from a strike either.
Meanwhile, the website of the Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS), run by the US Army Department, did record any maneuvers of B-1 bombers at the Guam base.
On one occasion in July this year, the bombers took part in a 10-hour mission into Japanese airspace and over the Korean Peninsula.
Tensions between Washington and Pyongyang were exacerbated after a new round of sanctions by the UN Security Council on North Korea earlier in August, which followed fresh missile tests by Pyongyang. Apart from trading verbal punches, both parties are flexing their military muscles as well.
In July, North Korea claimed to have test-fired two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). However, Russia said that the missiles were intermediate range, not ICBMs. In response, the US and South Korea repeatedly fired surface-to-surface missiles into neutral waters close to North Korea.
In one of the latest shows of force, the US military test-launched a Minuteman III ICBM missile from a US Air Force base in California.
In another sign of mounting tensions, Pyongyang said that it was working on a plan to launch a medium-range ballistic missile at the US forces in Guam. President Donald Trump has said that North Korea “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently tried to calm the situation, saying that North Korea poses no “imminent threat” to the US and that “Americans should sleep well at night.”
Russia and China have repeatedly called for a political solution to the long-standing crisis and the renewal of the ‘six-party talks.’ Moscow and Beijing are opposed to any further missile launches carried out by North Korea, while they also call on the US to halt military drills in the region.