US Air Force sends dozens of F-22 stealth fighters to train for war with China

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The US Air Force deploys a huge force of fighters …including a possibly unprecedented number of F-22– in Guam to train for war with China.

The 10 F-15Es of the 389th Fighter Squadron at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho are already on the ground at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.

Twenty-five F-22s from two squadrons, the 525th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, and the 199th Fighter Squadron, part of the Hawaii Air National Guard at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, are expected to arrive soon. .

Two C-130J transports from the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base, Japan, accompany the fighters. The C-130s and other support planes were essential in the aftermath of the events.

Under the rubric of Exercise Pacific Iron 21, the fighters will be spread across four airfields. Three — Andersen, AB Won Pat International Airport, and Northwest Field — are in Guam. One, Tinian International Airport, is 120 miles north of Guam.

The plan, according to Air Force statements, is for fighters to train to deploy and conduct sorties from austere airfields. In recent years, the Flying Branch has become increasingly concerned that, in the early hours of a regional war, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force could fire dozens of ballistic missiles at large. large American bases, including Andersen.

Under the new concept of “agile combat employment”, the Air Force would scatter its planes over dozens of small airstrips in the Western Pacific, all in the hope of complicating the bombing of China. Some of the airstrips, such as Northwest Field in Guam, are remnants of WWII.

“ACE is the use of agile operations to generate resilient air power in a contested environment and is designed to organize, train and equip Airmen to be more agile in the execution of operations, strategic in deterrence and more resilient in their capabilities, ”the Air Force said. declared.

The Air Force has practiced this concept of dispersal for years, but rarely with so many fighters, to say nothing of so many stealth fighters.

The F-22, like all unobservable warplanes, requires extensive maintenance between sorties. This can be difficult to do on an airstrip without permanent facilities.

The presence of the C-130s in the force composition of Pacific Iron 21 is revealing. It’s one thing to land a bunch of F-22s on a disused runway and pitch tents for crews and maintenance technicians. It is another to keep planes and airmen in food, fuel, parts and ammunition.

To keep the austere bases combat-ready in wartime, the Air Force would have to maintain a steady rhythm of resupply missions.

Additionally, many of the potential peripheral bases the Air Force has identified for potential use during a crisis are hundreds of miles from likely combat zones over the Philippine Sea and the sea. from China.

The fighters would need the support of air tankers, in large part. “Air-to-air refueling is essential for an agile combat job because it extends the range and flight time of the aircraft,” US Transportation Command tweeted last month.

These tankers are safely too big to operate from austere airstrips. While the Air Force may be successful in deploying its fighters to protect them from Chinese rockets, the service may struggle to do the same for its tankers and transport planes.

Likewise, American heavy bombers depend on large air bases. At least three B-52s from the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota arrival in Andersen last week. KC-135 tankers usually accompany these Guam bomber rotations.

The logistical requirements of “distributed” flight operations represent a major challenge. All those F-15s and F-22s scattered around Guam should be impressive.

But it would be even more impressive to see the Air Force supporting these scattered fighters in a way the Chinese cannot stop with a few rockets.

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