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A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon with the 115th Fighter Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard.
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon with the 115th Fighter Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard. (Cristina J. Allen/U.S. Air National Guard)

DAYTON, Ohio (Tribune News Service) — In recent days, two related events happened in rapid succession: The State Department approved the possible $2.4 billion sale of F-16 Fighting Falcons and AIM-9X Sidewinder Block II tactical missiles to the Philippines.

And U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. will come to the Philippines' aid if China attacks its aircrafts or ships.

Brig. Gen. Brian Bruckbauer, commander of the Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, does not deny that the events are related.

"The Defense Department and the State Department work closely together when it comes to our interaction with our foreign partners," Bruckbauer said in a new interview with the Dayton Daily News. "Obviously that extends to the combatant command, as well. So in this case, it would be the INDOPACOM combatant command (the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command)."

The events illustrate how important the directorate and all of Wright-Patterson is to national security.

"It is a direct link to our national security," the one-star general said of the work at Wright-Patterson.

The Wright-Patt-based directorate works with foreign allies to help them with their security needs and that assistance can be of "mutual benefit," Bruckbauer said.

"We use a variety of tools in the toolbox, if you will, to work with partners," he said.

The directorate's workforce at Wright-Patterson and elsewhere has invested a "substantial" amount of work into the possible deal with the Philippines — advancing the transaction to this point in about 150 days.

The sale has not been approved by Congress or by the Philippines yet.

"We're waiting for that congressional approval," the commander said. "Sometimes we see these approvals come in 30 days or so. Other times, there may be an extended time these stay in Congress because they want to discuss whether this is truly in the international interest."

He declined to predict if or when Congress would approve the sale, but he said: "I expect we'll hear something shortly."

In his recent remarks, Blinken reiterated a mutual defense pact with the Philippines, warning China that an attack on Philippine armed forces in the South China Sea would trigger a 1951 U.S.-Philippines mutual defense treaty. President Donald Trump last year also rejected China's claims to resources in areas of the South China Sea.

The Philippines are not the first country to want to buy F-16s, Bruckbauer noted. These jets would be brand new block 70 F-16s. In fact, Lockheed Martin has set up a separate production line in Greenville, S.C., to produce jets for foreign allies, the general said.

"If it weren't for some of those foreign sales, our defense industrial base would take a pretty significant hit, " he said.

Asked about the possibility of future foreign military sales, he said: "Oh yeah. The pipeline is full of them."

(c)2021 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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