HONOLULU – The United States and its allies will have over 200 F-35 stealth fighter jets deployed in the Asia-Pacific region by around 2025, according to Gen. Charles Brown, commander of the U.S. Pacific Air Forces.
Brown presented the outlook during a recent interview at the headquarters of the Pacific Air Forces in the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu.
He said China, which has been expanding its military power rapidly, is posing an “existential” threat to the United States.
Noting that the Pacific Air Forces will have F-35A jets within a year, Brown expressed hope for enhancing their capabilities through joint exercises with the F-35s owned by Japan, South Korea and Australia.
China has been strengthening its capabilities to strike at U.S. military bases in the Asia-Pacific region by fully deploying the Dongfeng-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile capable of reaching Guam, for example.
To counter the move, the Pacific Air Forces plan to adopt tactics that rely on the rapid movements of relatively small units, instead of intensively deploying troops at large bases.
Brown said the “real key part” of the F-35 is not only its strike platform but also its sensor.
With its sensor, the F-35 can provide helpful information for the U.S. forces’ decision-making and mission execution in times of contingencies, he said.
Noting that Singapore is also interested in purchasing F-35s, Brown said the promotion of F-35 deployment by its allies and partner countries would give the United States “flexibility” in its tactics of keeping small units on the move.
An Air Self-Defense Force F-35A fighter jet crashed during an exercise over the Pacific Ocean on April 9. A search is still underway for the pilot and the aircraft body.
The crash came after the Japanese government unveiled in December last year a plan to procure more F-35 fighters to replace outdated F-15 jets. In fiscal 2019-2023, the country will purchase 45 F-35s.