President Obama's new military strategy is taking shape here on the sun-seared grasslands of West Texas where B-1 bomber pilots train.
The strategy pivots from missions over the deserts and mountains of Afghanistan to targets on the sea and, though the military doesn't come out directly and say it, in China. "We're going back to the future," says Col. David Been, commander of the 7th Bomb Wing at Dyess. "As the balance shifts from almost exclusively Afghanistan right now, we're shifting to the Asia-Pacific region."
After a decade of ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — 6,350 Americans killed and more than $1 trillion spent — Obama announced the new strategy in January that looks to counter the rising power of China. The changing role of the B-1 is a prime example of how the Air Force is responding.
Suddenly, the B-1, a plane that once seemed irrelevant after the end of the Cold War, is being repurposed again. First, the B-1 became the workhorse of the air war in Afghanistan. Now, as the Pentagon's strategic vision shifts to Asia, so too is the B-1.