Thursday, January 28, 2016 by usafeaturesmedia
(NationalSecurity.news) The Air Force has sent 12 F-22s from the 525th Fighter Squadron, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, to Yokota airbase near Tokyo, The Aviationist reported last week, in what appears to be an effort by the Pentagon to bolster U.S. military capacity in the region as tensions rise with North Korea and China.
In addition to the stealth jets, the Pentagon is also sending 14 F-16s from the 18th Aggressor Squadron, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, to take part in a joint training exercise in Japan that had been planned already.
The Aviationist noted that it isn’t clear whether the planes are being added to the Air Force Theater Security Package (TSP), but analysts say having them there will lend more stability to the region following Pyongyang’s recent nuclear test Jan. 6, and the election of an independence-minded president in Taiwan.
In addition, China’s aggressive island-building in the South China Sea has also ratcheted up tensions in the region, with several Asian powers including Vietnam, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, among others, competing for claims and resources.
F-22s – built by Lockheed Martin – are fifth-generation, twin-engine, all-weather strike aircraft have extremely low radar signatures, making them difficult to track. The are often deployed to Japan after the Air Force began rotating fighter aircraft to bases under the Pacific Command in early 2004 as a deterrent to rising threats within that theater of operations.
But, as The Aviationist further notes, most generally the F-22s are sent to Kadena airbase on the island of Okinawa. That is home to the 18th Wing, which is the largest combat wing in the entire Air Force.
As reported by Japan Times, the country’s defense ministry said it was not given prior notice of the deployment of the F-22s. Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani was not concerned, telling the paper in a statement that the aircraft deployment was part of the “usual practice of security cooperation between Japan and the United States.”
He did, however, mention Pyongyang’s nuclear test as a possible reason the Yokota base was chosen.
“As North Korea’s nuclear test clearly shows, the security environment around our country has become increasingly severe,” he said.
“The deterrence provided by the U.S. military based on the Japan-U.S. alliance is indispensable for our country’s security.”
Albert Goldson, executive director of Indo-Brazilian Associates, LLC, a NYC-based global advisory firm and think tank, confirmed that the F-22 deployment at the Yokota airbase, located in western Tokyo, was indeed strategic.
“Geographically this puts the 12 F-22s considerably closer to North Korea,” he told NationalSecurity.news in an email.
“As part of the officially announced previously scheduled joint training mission, it’s probable that the exercise will utilize the F-22s stealth capabilities plus intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissanceattributes to probe North Korea defenses and possibly detect how the North Korean defenses respond to military aircraft even when in international airspace,” he added.
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