As tensions continue to rise with China in the South China Sea, and Taiwan Strait, the U.S. is beefing up its deployed forces in the region. A U.S. Navy destroyer just sailed near disputed islands in the South China Sea in another Freedom of Navigation Operation, or FONOP, and the U.S. Air Force is sending nearly three dozen additional air defense and strike fighters to Guam and Tinian in a display of “strategic flexibility.”
Both military moves are designed to send a message to Beijing; America can and will defend its allies and interests in the region.
The National Interest reports:
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Russell sailed by the Spratly Islands, claimed by China, earlier this week. The Russell belong to the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, which stated that the destroyer “asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the Spratly Islands, consistent with international law,” adding that “this freedom of navigation operation upheld the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law by challenging unlawful restrictions on innocent passage imposed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan.”
Commissioned in 1995, the Russell’s System Mk 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS) accepts a wide range of armaments that include Tomahawk cruise missiles, RIM-67 surface-to-air missiles, and RUM-139 ASROC anti-submarine missiles.
The Biden administration has continued the Trump policy of challenging China’s illegal maritime claims to most of the South China Sea.
As to the Air Force deployment, a statement from the Pacific Air Force said that:
More than 35 aircraft and approximately 800 Airmen from Pacific Air Forces and Air Combat Command will deploy to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s area of responsibility in July to participate in Operation Pacific Iron 2021.
Pacific Iron 2021 is a PACAF dynamic force employment operation to project forces into the USINDOPACOM’s area of responsibility in support of the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) which called on the military to be a more lethal, adaptive, and resilient force.
Approximately 25 F-22 Raptor stealth fighters, ten F-15E Strike Eagle fighter bombers, two C-130J Hercules transport planes from bases in the U.S. and the region, along with 800 airmen, will conduct “combat dispersal operations” in Guam and Tinian.
The combat aircraft and crews will be coming from locations as far afield as Idaho, Alaska, Hawaii (Air National Guard), and Yokota Air Base, Japan.
This unusually large single deployment of 25 F-22 Raptor fifth-generation stealth fighters represents a larger force of fifth-generation fighters than China has in its entire inventory. And that’s the point of the exercise.
“We have never had this many Raptors deployed together in the Pacific Air Forces area of operations,” Gen. Ken Wilsbach, Pacific Air Forces commander, told CNN.
Carl Schuster, a Hawaii-based defense analyst told CNN that the U.S. “Pacific Air Force is demonstrating that it can deploy as many or more fifth-generation aircraft into the theater on short notice than (China) currently has” in its whole air force and navy combined. ADN