AMMAN, Jordan – An international military exercise in Jordan that appears to have rattled neighboring Syria concluded Thursday with a 36-hour non-stop practice bombing flight meant to show the United States can reach faraway targets.
Close to 7,200 troops from 22 countries, the bulk from the U.S. and Jordan, participated in the annual 10-day "Eager Lion" exercise. Drills included multi-national live fire operations with aircraft and ground forces in the open desert, as well as ways of stopping car bombs.
Eager Lion brought together some of the members of a U.S.-led military coalition against Islamic State, the extremist group that controls areas of two of Jordan's neighbors, Syria and Iraq. Jordan, a key Western ally, views IS as an external and domestic threat.
The exercise is the U.S. military's largest and most complex in the region, said a Navy Cmdr. Kyle Raines, a U.S. Central Command spokesman.
The large presence of Western and Arab troops in Jordan appeared to have spooked the Syrian government which has been locked in a civil war with homegrown and foreign-backed rebel groups for six years.
At the beginning of exercise, pro-Syrian media reported that U.S., British and Jordanian forces were "massing" on the Jordanian side of the border. At the time, Syria's foreign minister warned Jordan against sending troops into Syria.
Raines said that in a final drill Thursday, a B-1 bomber flew from the U.S. to Jordan, dropped precision-guided munition on a Jordanian military training area and returned to the U.S. without pause. The roundtrip takes 36 hours, Raines said.
Last year, a B-52 bomber flew a similar mission, Raines said. Both planes can depart from the U.S. to "strike anywhere in the world," he said.
The B-1 is slightly faster and only carries conventional weapons, he said.