- The vast distances to the Pacific region and the growing influence of the Chinese military have prompted the United States to look for ways to disperse its forces and bases.
- For the U.S. Air Force, this means searching the region for runways and facilities that can support its aircraft as it attempts to deploy and pursue potential combat operations.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The possibility of war with China, which has a rapidly modernizing army It can reach farther and farther across the Pacific OceanIs the US military looking to deploy?
For the US Air Force, that means searching the region for new places to operate, but instead of building new bases, they operate with what is there, according to Gen. Kenneth Welsbach, commander of the Pacific Air Force.
“What we are doing is taking advantage of the airports that are already in place,” Welsbach told reporters last week. “If you will lay [in] An F-22, F-15, or C-130, the airport has to have certain standards, and so we’ve already studied every single piece of concrete in the Pacific, India and Pacific … to see if they’ll meet our standards. “
Air Force officers developed plans to establish military bases in the 1990s, and the strategy is receiving renewed interest.
“We started working on this very diligently, maybe four to five years ago,” Welsbach said. “I was the captain in Alaska at the time … we really got into this in Alaska at first and then expanded across the Indian and Pacific Oceans.”
National Defense Strategy 2018 Quote She said that Russia and China, as the main strategic competitors of the United States – will continue to pursue a military modernization program that seeks regional hegemony for the Indian and Pacific region in the near term and the displacement of the United States … in the future. “
The type of conflict described in that document “may not have firm bases, infrastructure, and firm command and control,” meaning the Air Force needs to return to its “exploratory roots,” General David Goldfin, the senior air force officer at the time, said in 2018 Speech.
This aspiration is reflected in Agile Combat Employment, where aircraft operate from bases or major hubs from militant positions, or amplifiers, without an in-place support network to refuel, re-arm, and restart in a relatively short period.
“The basis behind ACE is instead of having a few … really big bases, we disperse forces and get more flexible and more mobile,” Welsbach said, adding that the “acoustics” would allow planes and crews to come and go with what might seem random to the opponent.
Welsbach said ACE has been around for some time, and “nearly every exercise” the command does now has an ACE component. during Practice brave shield In September, the pilots reinforced it with additional duties.
“We had F-22s on our way, we call it Base X, so no hub base … [to] Refueling, and they’ve also practiced what we call a multi-skilled pilot. “Wellsbach said.” You can send a smaller team to an overseas base and instead of having a pilot, all they do, for example, is refuel a plane, and we asked them to learn multiple skills. “
Welsbach said that being able to multi-task means fewer people will be needed in the speaker, but flexibility can also mean taking less.
“When I was in Alaska, we did it in a completely bare base, and everyone was camping in” store-bought tents and eating Moroccans living outside next to the runway, Welsbach said. “We worked from that bare base for two weeks.”
‘Too much competition’
Welsbach did not clarify plans for those interlocutors and speakers or where they might be, but the Air Force and other services branches He trains to work Next to Wider expanses of the Pacific Ocean.
The United States has territories in that region – like Guam, which has a major air base, and the Northern Mariana Islands – but some nations there are also keen to play host.
The president of Palau has outgoing He repeatedly encouraged the US Army To expand the facilities there. Wellsbach has expressedDesire to increase options“In Palau, where the airports are Good location But it will require ‘a lot more work’ to expand.
Palau, along with Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, have free association agreements with the United States, under which its citizens receive benefits in the United States and the U.S. military obtains universal rights to operate on their lands.
The Pacific Air Force “regularly assesses sites” in the Indo-Pacific region for “operational, training and exercise objectives” and “routinely” on trains and work in and around the Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau, a public affairs officer on the matter said the Insider .
Interest in the region is growing due to its propensity for such a pivot model and proximity to either side of the Pacific, according to Derek Grossman, senior defense analyst at the Rand Corporation Research Corporation.
“You want to be able to project power into potential battlefields – the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait – and as China develops its ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and other capabilities to attack away, you want to be able to disperse a little bit,” Grossman told Insider in an interview in October. .
This was not lost on China, which traded with the countries there Advance its military and diplomatic goals.
“That’s why there’s been a lot of competition lately between the United States and Jordan in this area,” Grossman said.
"Incurable communicator. General tv buff. Problem solver. Music aficionado. Pop culture trailblazer."