A central feature of the Pentagon’s strategic pivot to Asia is a rebalancing of the military’s global force posture. The Navy, for example, is planning to deploy some 60 per cent of its ships to this region, including forward basing a number of its new Littoral Combat Ships. The naval and air base at Guam is being expanded. The Army is examining options for playing a larger role in building partnership capacity with friends and allies. Some 2,500 Marines will be deployed to a base in Northern Australia.
It will take more than just a subtle redeployment of existing U.S. assets to insure stability and peace in the Asia-Pacific region. China’s relentless military buildup and North Korea’s continual political bombast must be counterbalanced by increase in military power of all the area’s free and democratic nations. Fortunately, the U.S. military is not the only country beefing up its military capabilities. Washington’s major allies in the Asia-Pacific region are making significant investments in their own security.
Japan recently decided to acquire the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to replace its aging F-4Js. Japan also is investing in theater missile defenses. It has deployed the Standard Missile (SM)-3 Block IA on its Aegis-capable destroyers and is working jointly with the United States to design and build the more capable SM-3 Block IIA. In addition, that country’s new defense minister, Satoshi Morimoto, announced that his country intends to strengthen its overall defense capability in the southwest, the region between the Home Islands and Taiwan. This area is part of the so-called First Island Chain that figures prominently in Chinese military plans in the event of a conflict over Taiwan.
South Korea is in the midst of a major military modernization program. Central to this is a planned acquisition of an advanced air platform. Three systems are in the running to fill Seoul’s requirement for a new fighter: Lockheed Martin’s F-35, Boeing’s F-15SE Silent Eagle and EADS’s Typhoon. South Korea is also deploying advanced Patriot PAC-3 missile defense systems, new antisubmarine surface combatants and long-range UAVs.
Taiwan would do more and probably even buy more military gear from the United States if the Obama Administration would let it. Per the current agreement with Washington, Taipei is going to upgrade its aging F-16 fighters. What Taiwan really wants to do and what the administration should support is acquisition of up to 100 new advanced variants of the F-16. Taiwan is also investing in a range of capabilities such as stealthy surface combatants and antiship cruise missiles designed to counter the amphibious warfare threat from the mainland.
Australia, one of America’s closest allies, is in the midst of a major military modernization program. The future Royal Australian Air Force will be based around the F-35, C-17 transports, the Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C), a replacement for the P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and new air-to-air refuelers. The Royal Australian Navy will acquire a new class of guided missile destroyers and an expanded fleet of submarines, the successors to the Collins class SSN. The Royal Australian Army is exploiting the lessons learned from a decade of combat in Southwest Asia. It is investing in unmanned aerial systems, improved force protection capabilities and tactical networks.
Even as United States allies in Europe decrease their defense spending and shrink their military establishments, those in Asia are looking to improve national capabilities and tie their forces ever more closely to those of the United States. These programs cannot help but have a positive impact on the security of the Asia-Pacific region.
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