PACAF mulls boosting theater assets
Stars and Stripes November 4, 2004
Pacific Air Forces could boost significantly the speed and accuracy of its response to regional “hot spots” by permanently basing in the theater weapons with the latest high-tech information-gathering and warfighting advances, PACAF officials say.
They say they’re considering permanently basing intelligence, surveillance-reconnaissance, strike and refueling assets in the Pacific as part of an “ISR strike task force.”
Planners indicated Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, appears to be a leading candidate to receive new assets — including fighter aircraft — among Pacific Command bases.
Though no decision has been made, said Col. Mark Tapper, PACAF’s 502nd Air Operations Group commander, “Guam is a tremendous location. … Guam has a bunch of great attributes to make it a worthy location.”
The ISR strike package could include Global Hawks, F/A-22s and bombers. Six B-52s now are based temporarily at Andersen.
“It’s under review,” Tapper said. “We see in the near term bombers stationed in Guam are a good thing.” They deter potential adversaries and assure allies of the U.S. military’s commitment to the Pacific region, he said.
Although PACAF can marshal resources for an ISR strike task force, not all of them now are Pacific Command-based, Tapper said. “Permanently basing strike and ISR assets in the Pacific theater provides the combatant commander with immediate flexibility to create effects” throughout the theater, he said. And the Air Force, as the service usually charged with air and space tasks, is responsible for providing the combat commander with immediate recon or strike capability in “minutes or hours, not days or weeks.”
“The only way to provide that capability in the near term is to base strike and ISR assets in theater," Tapper added.
The Pacific’s combatant commander, Adm. Thomas B. Fargo, consults with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of defense on military strategy in the Pacific and lists what’s needed for the next five to 20 years, Tapper said. “The secretary of defense and the joint staff work diligently to try and get those resources.”
Maj. Gen. David Deptula, PACAF’s air and space operations director, told the Inside the Air Force newsletter recently that a fighter presence — a key ISR component — would be established at Andersen; no aircraft now are assigned to the Guam base, which mostly receives aircraft transiting through or temporarily deployed to the region.
The PACAF commander, Gen. Paul V. Hester, in an interview with Stripes last week spoke highly of Andersen’s growth potential, calling it “such a wonderful piece of property. It’s properly positioned; it’s an American territory with the U.S. flag flying over the top of it; it doesn’t provide an extended burden on other countries as we continue to discuss burden sharing and burden of population in [South] Korea and in Japan.”
“So Guam,” he said, “certainly is an opportunity for us to look at a place to increase our presence, if we want to add missions.”
Tapper said if additional assets were to go to Guam, “the decision to start that process would be in the next five years” because the Defense Department keeps to a five-year planning cycle.