Six partners, 3,000 miles: Air Mobility Command undertakes largest readiness exercise in Indo-Pacific
Stars and Stripes July 17, 2023
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Thousands of airmen and dozens of aircraft are deployed throughout the Indo-Pacific this month for the largest readiness exercise in the history of Air Mobility Command, according to the U.S. Air Force.
Mobility Guardian, which began July 5 and concludes Friday, involves forces from Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, France and Japan, the service said in a statement at the start of the drill.
The exercise, held in the Indo-Pacific for the first time, involves moving more than 15,000 U.S. and international forces across the region, the statement said.
The training includes resupply missions, aerial refueling and medical evacuations at bases in Hawaii, Guam, Australia and Japan.
Mobility Guardian includes 70 aircraft at multiple spots across a 3,000-mile exercise area. One of them is the Air Force’s newest tanker, the KC-46 Pegasus, the service said in a follow-up statement July 5.
Pegasus tankers and active-duty and Reserve airmen from the 22nd and 931st Air Refueling Wings passed through Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, earlier this month as part of the training, Capt. Allen Gutierrez, a 5th Air Force spokesman said in an email July 10.
“Their final destination is Australia where they will support MG23 operations,” he said.
The Air Force released photos on July 11 of KC-135 Stratotankers taking part in the exercise at Yokota, the U.S. airlift hub in western Tokyo.
The exercise comes amid heightened tensions with Beijing, which has been investing heavily in its military. Chinese President Xi Jinping has stated his intent to reunite the autonomous and democratic island of Taiwan with mainland China, by force if necessary.
Air Force Gen. Michael Minihan, who oversees the Air Mobility Command’s fleet of transport and refueling aircraft, in January warned his airmen to speed their preparations for a potential conflict, citing Xi’s aspirations and the possibility that Americans will not be paying attention until it is too late.
“I don’t believe conflict is inevitable. I don’t believe it’s unavoidable,” Minihan told NBC News for a Thursday report from Pacific Air Forces headquarters in Hawaii. “But I also believe that ready now is what matters most. So ready now is the foundation of deterrence. And ready now is also the foundation of decisive victory.”
The general said he isn’t trying to be provocative.
“I’m trying to provide my formation with the tools and the action and the priority necessary to win,” he said.