Hawaii Air National Guard F-22 Raptors recently deployed to Japan and trained in the Aloha State with an “aggressor” squadron for a “high-end fight” that the United States hopes will never come with China but is preparing for nevertheless.
At least four and likely six of the stealth jets from the 199th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam landed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan on March 12. The deployment also includes airmen from the active-duty 19th Fighter squadron at Hickam.
“This operation demonstrates our commitment to ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific through the flexibility of our forces,” Maj. Gen. Lansing Pilch, Pacific Air Forces air and cyberspace operations director, said in an Air Force-produced news story. “We’re focused on being ready for a high-end fight under any conditions. This operation gives our airmen an opportunity to train with the Marines and their 5th generation aircraft, as well as potential opportunities to integrate and fly with allies in the region.”
Both the F-22 and Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II are stealth fighters with advanced sensors that are intended to integrate with other U.S. forces.
A 2015 RAND Corp. report said that in virtually any East Asian scenario, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy aircraft would play a critical role in blunting Chinese attacks. Stealth fighters and bombers would be in the lead.
China, meanwhile, continues to improve its military at breakneck speed to counter those U.S. capabilities.
The 2020 China military power report delivered annually to Congress said the People’s Liberation Army has already achieved parity with — or even exceeded—the United States in several military modernization areas, including shipbuilding, land-based conventional ballistic and cruise missiles and integrated air defense systems. China already has the world’s largest land force and navy.
The United States is practicing what it calls strategic predictability with operational unpredictability, sending forces to train in the western Pacific at irregular times. America also is building up allies and planning to send fast-moving forces to austere islands to counter China.
The presence of the Hawaii F-22s at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni “provides a gainful opportunity for our F-35B pilots to practice joint integration between these two state-of-the-art aircraft,” Lt. Col. Richard Behrmann, the Marine Aircraft Group 12 operations officer, said in the news story. “Regular training and integration with joint service, partner and allied forces is one of the many ways that we maintain a high level of readiness.”
During exercise Pacific Raptor this month on Oahu, meanwhile, Hawaii Raptors flew against Alaska-based F-16s that take on the role and flying characteristics of enemy forces.
“We’re helping the F-22s by replicating adversary capabilities so that they are trained and ready for any fight the Air Force wants to take them to,” Capt. Daniel Simpson, an 18th Aggressor Squadron pilot, said in a separate Air Force story.
A typical training day entailed flights of Hawaii Raptors and aggressor F-16s as well as KC-135 Stratotankers from the 203rd Air Refueling Squadron so the fighters could get in-air refueling between combat scenarios.