Just as the Chinese military was flexing its muscles at the Zhuhai Air Show, the U.S. military was preparing to evacuate old F-15 fighter jets from Japanese air bases and temporarily deploy more advanced F-22As to fill the vacancy. Experts suggest that the United States permanently deploy fifth-generation fighter jets, such as the F-35A, to the base to enhance the U.S. combat posture in the Indo-Pacific region and deter China from invading Taiwan. The 18th Wing of the U.S. Air Force announced
On November 4 that F-22A fighter jets from Alaska arrived at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, on the same day to prepare for more than three years of service at the base. A decade of phased withdrawal of F-15C/D fighters. The statement said the Pentagon would temporarily deploy newer, more advanced fighter jets to fill the void after the F-15s are withdrawn. The F-22A will work with other armaments at the base to maintain the fighter’s capability, enhance U.S. military readiness, defend Japan, and ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Mark Gunzinger, retired U.S. Air Force Col. Mark Gunzinger, director of the Future Concepts and Capabilities Assessment at The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, told VOA, “I’m sure the U.S. has no intention of issuing Such a signal, but China is likely to see this as another indicator of the continued weakening of U.S. military power.
“The “20” series of Chinese Air Force heavy weapons, including the self-developed new-generation stealth fighter J-20, and UAV equipment such as Wing Loong-3, Feihong-97A, and Rainbow-7.
Does withdrawing F-15s show weakness to Beijing?
On November 1, four Republican members of the U.S. Congress sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, asking him to brief the 18th Wing on specific steps to replace F-15 fighter jets. They worry that the Pentagon’s decision sends the wrong signal to the Chinese Communist Party, as well as allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific.
“We believe that the Department of Defense’s plan to replace permanently deployed fighter jets with rotationally deployed forces will result in a significant reduction in U.S. forward combat capability in the Indo-Pacific, thereby lowering the threshold for aggression (Taiwan) and demonstrating the Biden administration’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific. A continued mismatch between talking points and actual U.S. commitments in the region,” the letter reads.
However, Stacie Pettyjohn, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a U.S. think tank, and director of the defense program, tweeted that the removal of the F-15 is part of a broader strategy to enhance deterrence against China and reduce the vulnerability of U.S. military assets.
“(F-15C/D) These are old fourth-generation aircraft, and considering the PLA’s advanced layered air defense systems, they won’t contribute much in the war against China.”
She reminded that China has more than 1,000 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) and more than 300 land-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) that can reach Okinawa and could destroy U.S. fighter jets parked at bases. U.S. warplanes can be deployed quickly to the region and are planned to be dispersed across many grounds to reduce their vulnerability and increase their ability to operate in the event of an attack.
Brent M. Eastwood, the defense and national security editor of the U.S. foreign policy website 1945, told VOA that the change would not necessarily diminish U.S. combat effectiveness in a potential war in the Taiwan Strait, F- The 15C/D will be replaced by the more capable F-22 Raptor fighter jets and may be rotated every six months with better aircraft like the F-15EX or F-35.
Eastwood said that the Taiwan conflict might not last long, with China’s carrier-killing missiles most worrying. However, the U.S. Navy is well aware of its range and will be on the first day of a conflict. Just target these missiles. The U.S. Air Force could use its fleet of bombers to destroy enemy air defenses with stand-off missiles, then hunt for those Chinese weapons when the carrier is out of range.
“F-22s, F-35s, and F-15EXs will come in handy if the conflict continues into the third day. Once the carrier killer is gone, the U.S. carriers will step up. Also sure, China is changing every month. The industrial base of shipbuilding and aircraft manufacturing is very strong. The U.S. must keep up with China’s defense industry.” Short
-term rotation vs. permanent deployment
Hanna Air Force Base is the most extensive American air force base in the Far East, about 600 kilometers away from Taiwan. The base’s 18th Air Force Wing is the giant operational Wing in the United States Pacific Air Forces (PACAF).
Eric Chan, a consultant on strategic affairs for the U.S. Air Force, told VOA that after the F-15s were withdrawn from the Kadena base, it would be more difficult for potential adversaries to predict the location of U.S. military assets and target them in the first strike.
“The U.S. is increasingly incorporating allies and partners into our strategy and operational plans, which builds the necessary trust in the United States to reduce America’s vulnerable forward combat capabilities,” he said.
“The United States and its allies and partners have long been accustomed to ‘presence’ as a form of assurance and deterrence, leaving all parties with a degree of passivity. Given the growing capabilities of adversaries, now’s the time to It’s time to revisit this concept and develop a new approach to providing assurance or deterrence.”
Gunzinger of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies pointed out that the U.S. military is deploying fighter jets to Kadena for three reasons: To assure regional allies (confidence), deter Chinese aggression, and defend Japan.
He said short-term rotational deployments have several drawbacks, including more incredible difficulty for rotating aircrews and maintainers to gain insight into the region and develop solid working relationships with local allies — all critical for seamless coalition operations during the conflict.
“As the saying goes, it also robs West (rob Peter to pay Paul), meaning these rotating fighters won’t be able to operate in other theaters, including Europe.”
A better option, Gunzinger suggested, would be to deploy the fifth-generation fighter F-35A at Kadena permanently.
“This may require the Air Force to increase its F-35 acquisition rate, which is only 33 this year, rather than the 80 per year the Air Force needs. This is not the Air Force’s fault, as its annual budget is larger than the Army and Navy budgets. Billions of dollars are missing.”
Military experts from the American Enterprise Institute also published an article in “Defense News” on the 2nd, suggesting that the U.S. military should deploy the F-35A at Misawa Air Base in Japan as soon as possible. Fighter. In urgent operational situations, minutes and hours can significantly impact an enemy invasion plan. The brief introduction of troops into the Indo-Pacific theater increases the risk of escalation.
How can the U.S. Air Force strengthen its Indo-Pacific readiness?
Gunzinger pointed out that if a sufficient number of rotating fighter forces continued to exist in Okinawa, the U.S forward combat capability could only marginally diminish the U.S. forward combat capability. But the real problem is that the Air Force’s existing fighter inventory is too small and too old to simultaneously address the demands of a national defense strategy, such as significant conflict with China, homeland defense, and deterrence of a second opportunistic aggressor.
“The U.S. decision on the Okinawa base is a symptom of the Air Force being too old and too small. This action also goes directly back to the former Secretary of Defense’s incredibly short-sighted decision to shrink the Air Force’s F-22 program to just 187 aircraft. , and keep too many aging F-15C/Ds in the fleet,” he said.
In the early 1990s, the U.S. Air Force initially planned to purchase 750 F-22s, which was later reduced to 381. Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates finally announced in 2009 that the production line would shut down the production line after 187 F-22s were built.
David Deptula, director of the Mitchell Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and retired three-star lieutenant general of the U.S. Air Force, wrote in Forbes magazine on the 1st that Gates made a fateful decision without seeing the threat of China. , the permanent presence of two F-15C/D squadrons withdrawn from the Pacific is an inevitable consequence of U.S. cuts in investment in successor aircraft.
He believes that the U.S. Air Force is now the oldest, smallest, and least prepared state in its 75-year history and urgently needs Congress to provide adequate funding to increase the speed at which it can purchase fighter jets.
The U.S. Air Force will have fewer fifth-generation fighter jets than its original counterparts in the 2027-2030 critical period when China may be preparing to attack Taiwan, according to a study co-authored by Deepdura and Gunzinger and released in September. 45% of the plan.
To improve high-tempo air operations in response to contingencies in Taiwan and the South China Sea, Gunzinger also suggested that the United States urgently needs to rebuild a permanent bomber force on Guam, continue to rotate at the Royal Air Force Base in northern Australia, Deploy bombers; get more air-dropped anti-ship weapons and B-21 stealth bombers.
“The B-21 will have the survivability, weapons payload capability, long-range and other desired attributes to deter and, if necessary, counter China within hours (rather than days or weeks as some naval and ground forces require) of aggression. It is no exaggeration to say that the B-21 will be America’s ‘China deterrence bomber’,” he said.
Zhan Yiting pointed out that improving the operational credibility of the U.S. Air Force means showing China the ability to quickly engage in combat power with other services, allies, and partners.
“If a U.S. Air Force Combat Air Patrol in the Pacific involves Australian aircraft and Japanese ships, the aggressor must consider whether the operational interest in attacking the patrol is worth fighting all three countries at the same time.”