The B-1 bombers allegedly deploying to Guam were staging a mock trans-Pacific deterrence mission?

Last week we reported about the alleged deployment of seven B-1B strategic bombers to Guam exposed by the radio comms in the clear intercepted by an airband listener.

Around  09.00 pm CDT (GMT -5) on Apr. 3, from his station in Amarillo, Texas, Steve Douglass heard “Dark flight of seven” (that is to say seven B-1B bombers from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas), coordinating their rendez-vous with their tankers and then request the latest weather report for Guam airbase.

The unusual amount of planes flying at the same time, the timing (few hours after last Kim Jong Un’s threat) and the request for wx (weather) at Andersen Air Force Base, suggested the planes were heading to the base in the Pacific as a reinforcement to the U.S. presence in the region (and/or to prepare for a preemptive strike on North Korea).

However, on Apr. 6, talking to FP Killer Apps, a U.S. Pacific Air Forces spokeswoman said that the planes were not at Andersen Air Force Base and didn’t even stop through Guam.

Whilst someone doubted the veracity of the report, speculations and rumors saw the planes either deployed to Shemya (in the Aleutian islands) or Eielson, Alaska, or elsewhere, from Australia, to Diego Garcia, from the Philippines to Iwo Jima, etc.

In order to discover where the seven planes had landed, we asked the PACAF command to confirm whether the B-1s were deployed in their theater or operation.

On Apr. 8, few hours later sending the question to the PAO, an extremely kind spokeswoman replied that “the B-1s are [were] not operating in or deployed in the Pacific Command(PACOM) theater of operations.”

To a further question about eventual training flights in the region in the previous week or so, the PAO answer was: “The B-1s have not operated in or deployed in the PACOM theater of operations in support of PACAF or PACOM during the time referenced.”

Hence, the B-1s were not deployed in the Pacific and did not operate there in the recent past.

Still, since Douglass had not only heard but also recorded the Dark flight of seven B-1, those Lancers had to be somewhere.

B-1 Still on the Go

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

Based on the time Douglass heard the B-1 flight of seven, we started browsing through archives for past Abilene/Dyess TWR radio feeds (LiveATC is a web portal that lets you listen to live radio communications between aircraft and Air Traffic Control agencies at various locations across the world). For sure, since the planes had departed from Dyess, they were issued a standard ATC clearance prior to take off mentioning thecdestination airport and we just needed to hear that conversation.

Since Douglass had heard the Dark flight refueling on AR13(W), near Childress VOR, 115nm north of Dyess, Apr. 3 between 09.00 pm and 10.42 pm local time (Apr. 4, 02.00 – 03.42Z), I started looking for any sign of “Dark” before 02.00Z.

We found what we were looking for in the archive audio file with comms recorded between 01.30Z and 02.00Z. From 01.32Z you can hear Dark 35, Dark 36 and Dark 37 taxiing for departure. It’s not clear how many aircraft each “Dark” includes but “Dark 35” immediately after take off called the APP control as “Dark 35 formation” meaning that it was not a single ship.

Dark 35, 36 and 37 were issued three separate clearances, each having Dyess Air Force Base as final destination: in other words, the aircraft took off for a round trip mission.

It’s not clear whether Dark 35, 36 and 37 were, in total 7 planes or rejoined with other Dark flights taken off earlier than them; still, they took off, refueled and returned to Dyess (as all the other B-1s we heard departing from there before and after 02.00Z).

That said, why they asked for weather in Guam in the clear remains a mystery.

Most probably, during a normal training flight in which they trained for a rapid deployment in the Pacific region in response to a crisis, they deliberately broadcast their presumed destination in order to let Pyongyang know there was a flight of B-1 bombers on the way.

A ploy to achieve deterrence through disinformation in times of sequestration and groundings? Psychological warfare?

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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. According to another article on your site, would that have been the last exercise of Bones out of that AFB? Didn’t 2 bomber wings at Dyess stand down yesterday?

    Perfect time for a false flag, with all these stand downs. Reminds me of 9/11. Will the M-I-C get us all screaming for more military dollars, with the help of North Korea on 4/11, or shortly thereafter? Let’s pray they don’t.

  2. Ok why don’t you tell everyone also the names of the pilots or where they live? Why we don’t tell to our friends North Koreans every time a military plane takes off from the United States? But what type of information you given? And what did you expect that the PAO told you: “you are warned North Korea that we’re going to bomb them in about an hour!!!!”
    So much noise only for a typical training mission for a strategic bomber as the Bone!

    • You seem to miss a couple of things:
      1) what’s in the article is only based on stuff that is in the Public Domain.
      2) Aircrews are perfectly aware that if the don’t use zip-lip ops or talk on secure radios they will be intercepted.
      3) In this case, it looks like they wanted people to know they were going to Guam even if they weren’t
      4) PAO being inquired by a journalist should not lie. Never. When a PAO doesn’t want to confirm something he/she says: “we can’t confirm” or “that’s confidential”. A PAO addressing media, should never lie.

      • @cencio4:disqus on the first three points I can be in accordance with you, but on the 4 point you must permit me to reply. Now we are in a “bravo” level of security, from this point forward we don’t joke anymore but we do seriously and I don’t think that a PAO highlights just “we can’t confirm” even if you’re a journalist. Being a journalist does not mean anything in front of a possible attack on the USA and the PAO does his duty and denies any claim that might create problems to country……I think this is clear enough is not it?

  3. What you are hearing is NOT B-1s being refueled, but a C-17 and KC-135 along AR197. There is a multi-aircraft check-in on a frequency, but that is not the primary AR freq as is heard over most of the recording. Seems the recording is jumping freqs and catches different channels. The clues are the number 77, associated with “CADDO 77”, the standard night callsign for a 58th AS C-17 and the “5 units of trim” used by the boom operator to refuel the C-17. B-1s do not require it. Sorry, but this is simply a misunderstanding and confusion of frequencies.

  4. @storm You missed the point – even though the communications may be a jumble of different frequencies – right off the bat you hear “Dark Flight of Seven.” and yes it was recorded off a scanning radio so it does just that – jumps around on a lot of frequencies. The refueling comms may or may not be all related to the same flight. BTW: I looked everywhere and cannot find where AR197 is located. It’s not listed here: Do you know where the track is located?

    • Steve, in the first segment of this article, you claimed that the flight of 7 B-1s refueled from a tanker flight going by Gasser who then requested a drag to Beale AFB. I’m part of that tanker unit and we did NOT refuel those B-1s. The only A/R was with Caddo 77 by a two-ship of KC-135s. They used tanker 1 and tanker 2 to distinguish as to who was who in the formation. Toward the beginning, you can here the C-17 give their end of air refueling clearence request of “bottom of the block, direct Childress, direct Altus.” Sorry, but your info was not correct. As for AR197, it begins over Lubbock and ends down in the Big Bend Natl Park.

      • “Later that same evening I monitored on 251.100 MHz DARK flight calling for “GASSR 11 and GASSR 12” (KC-135s) for a “Tanker drag to BAB.” Calling – not connecting.

  5. The reason for the weather radio transmission could be as simple as this: an IP or an IWSO was demonstrating to an student on-board how to pull weather.

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