Shifting its military power to the Asia-Pacific region, the United States has started a five-year process of deploying its three types of stealth warplanes to bases near China.
Air Force F-22s and B-2s and Marine Corps F-35s will be stationed at bases around China as Beijing tests its own radar-evading jet fighters, Wired magazine reported Dec. 26. Earlier this year, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration unveiled a new defense strategy that envisages a shift of focus from Iraq and Afghanistan toward the Pacific while addressing the increasing threats from China. Washington also announced in June the repositioning of its Navy fleet with the majority of its warships, 60 percent, to be assigned to the Asia-Pacific by 2020.
The announcements of new Pacific deployments of three warplanes have come in recent weeks starting with the 8th Air Force Cmdr. Maj. Gen. Stephen Wilson’s remarks on redeployment of B-2s, most probably to the Guam air base of the Pentagon.
‘Guam as strategic hub’
Wilson, who controls the Air Force’s 20 B-2 fleet normally based in Missouri, said “small numbers” of B-2s would begin rotating into the Pacific and other regions starting next year, speaking to Air Force magazine in early November. “Our B-2s will rotate to forward operating locations all over the world in small numbers for a few weeks at a time, a couple of times a year,” Wilson said in a Nov. 7 interview. F-22s, normally based in Florida, Virginia, Alaska and Hawaii, are already regular visitors to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and, more frequently, the Pentagon’s Kadena base in Japan’s Okinawa prefecture, the report said. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also said recently there would be “new deployments of F-22s … to Japan.”
“Over the past year, we reached major agreements with Japan to realign our forces and jointly develop Guam as a strategic hub,” Panetta said. Panetta announced the first planned overseas basing of the still-in-development F-35 in the same speech. The Defense Department is “laying the groundwork” for F-35s to deploy to Iwakuni, Japan, in 2017, Panetta said.
Obama held his first foreign trip since his re-election to the region in November, saying the region was critically important.
“As the fastest-growing region in the world, the Asia-Pacific will shape so much of our security and prosperity in the century ahead, and it is critical to creating jobs and opportunity for the American people. That’s why I’ve made restoring American engagement in this region a top priority as president,” Obama told reporters during his visit to Bangkok.