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  • Writer's pictureBy Mar-Vic Cagurangan

US to China: 'We hope you're watching'

Updated: Aug 2, 2021

Military officials say US fully ready to strike back if enemy makes a move in Indo-Pacific region

The U.S. is fully ready to strike back if China launches an assault on any of its territories or allied nations in the region, military officials said Sunday, highlighting the air power that soars over Guam during the ongoing war games.

“If you’re a potential adversary who seeks to prevent a free and open Indo-Pacific, we hope you’re watching," warned General Jon Thomas, deputy commander of the Pacific Air Forces. "No one wants to fight, but if you start one, we will continue to successfully operate using agility, speed and innovation.”

While Russia and North Korea also pose potential threats in the region, Gen. Charles Flynn, commander of the U.S. Army Pacific, acknowledged that China is the most menacing force to be reckoned with.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that they are great power competitors who are preparing, or at least have the option, to employ forces to extract the U.S., our allies and our partners if they don’t see that they are achieving their objectives which do not equate with free and open Indo-Pacific,” Flynn said.

The U.S. military is currently conducting the Defender Pacific 2021, Pacific Iron 2021 and Forager exercises with allied nations, deploying large forces that include 26 F-22 fighters and 12 F-15 Strike Eagles.

“We are exercising the ability to disperse that large force to multiple locations, and then to operate at an intense pace and tempo for a two-week period,” Thomas said. “This small, agile footprint across multiple locations is how we’ll conduct operations when the situation may require. And we can do it today at scale.”

More than 35 aircraft and approximately 800 airmen from U.S. Pacific Air Forces and Air Combat Command are demonstrating multi-capable airmen skills and agile combat employment concepts during simulated air combat scenarios.

Flynn said the current exercises are so far the largest and most comprehensive training in the region.

The exercises are in line with the 2018 National Defense Strategy, which called on the military to be “a more lethal, adaptive and resilient force.”

Flynn said the current operating environment is significantly different from what has been seen in the past.

“What's new is that we have opponents who think they can esablish a saturation effect, and think they can interrupt our command control, so we have to be able to develop exercises at scale,” Flynn said.

Officials highlighted the strategic significance of Guam as a joint power projection platform in the region.

A Defender with the 736th Security Forces Squadron participates in jungle reconnaissance during Pacific Defender 21-1, January 28, 2021. This long-standing exercise preempts Cope North 21 and is designed to enhance multilateral air operations among security forces of the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, Japan Air Self Defense Force and Royal Australian Air Force. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Amir R. Young)

“We are demonstrating our commitment here to the defense of Guam, to the defense of the nation, and to the values and the principles inherent in a free and open Indo-Pacific. This is the foundation of why we conduct exercises like we have today," Flynn said.

"We are conducting strategic deployment of our forces into the region followed by operational maneuver and command and control of those forces from strategic locations. We’re integrating and rehearsing all joint domain operations. And we’re demonstrating these capabilities by conducting rehearsals and building readiness with all of our forces.” On July 30, soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, 1st Special Forces Group, and members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force conducted an early morning airborne operation as part of Forager 21, the primary training exercise in support of Defender Pacific 21.

The joint event included more than 150 soldiers dropping from the sky during the early-morning Guam dawn, as four flights delivered them for one of the joint exercise’s key events as over 4,000 U.S service members continue to participate in the month-long training, testing their individual skills to ensure the collective ability of the Theater Army and Corps to effectively deploy a land power force to execute the mission.

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