‘Strong deterrent signal’ US Air force sends dozens of F-22s to Pacific amid China tension

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The stealth fighters, which arrived in Guam on Sunday, will take part in a military exercise near the Tinian islands for Operation Pacific Iron 2021. Pacific Air Forces in Hawaii confirmed approximately 25 F-22 Raptors from the Hawaii Air National Guard and from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, have been deployed.

General Ken Wilsbach, Pacific Air Forces commander, told CNN the deployment of F-22s will be the US’s largest joint deployment.

He said: “We have never had this many Raptors deployed together in the Pacific Air Forces area of operations.”

Operation Pacific Iron 2021 will focus on deploying, operating, manoeuvring, sustaining and generating forces from smaller and dispersed bases.

The operation is meant to project forces into the US Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility showing the US to be “a more lethal, adaptive, resilient force”.

Images of the F-22s arriving at Andersen Air Base in Guam were shared on the Defence Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS).

According to a statement from Pacific Air Forces, other aircraft from Idaho and Japan will join the F-22s for what the Air Force calls an Agile Combat Employment operation.

The Agile Combat Employment operation will distribute the combat aircraft to other airfields across the region to increase survivability from enemy missile strikes.

Carl Schuster, a Hawaii-based defence analyst and a former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center, said the deployment of the Stealth fighters is sending a strong signal to China.

He said: “The Pacific Air Force is demonstrating that it can deploy as many or more fifth-generation aircraft into the theatre on short notice than (China) currently has in its entire inventory.

“Demonstrating the US Air Force’s Agile Combat capability sends a strong deterrent signal to China and reassuring one to (US) allies and partners.

“China will try to follow it closely.”

Many of the US aircraft are concentrated on large military bases in the Pacific such as Kadena Air Base on Okinawa or Andersen Air Force Base on Guam.

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Experts fear that a strike on those bases could seriously endanger an American attempt to retaliate to enemy threats.

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