Monday, June 13, 2005

A Pacific forces reshuffle

In response to the ever growing Chinese military threat in the western Pacific, the Pentagon is remaking it's forces posture in that region. Richard Halloran details some of these upcoming changes in his article.Here are the highlights:

"Army: The Army headquarters at Fort Shafter would become a war-fighting command to devise and execute operations rather than to train and provide troops to other commands as it does now. The U.S. four-star general's post in Korea would be transferred to Hawaii.

I Corps at Fort Lewis, Wash., would move to Camp Zama, Japan, to forge ties with Japan's ground force. Japan would organize a similar unit, perhaps called the Central Readiness Command, to prepare and conduct operations with the U.S. Army.

In South Korea, the U.S. plans to disband the Eighth Army that has been there since the Korean War of 1950-53, to relinquish command of South Korean troops to the South Koreans, and to minimize or eliminate the United Nations Command set up during the Korean War.

Marine Corps: The Marines, who have a war-fighting center in Hawaii, would move the headquarters of the III Marine Expeditionary Force, or III MEF, to Guam from Okinawa to reduce the friction caused by the U.S. "footprint" on that Japanese island. How many Marines would move was not clear, but combat battalions would continue to rotate to Okinawa from the United States.

Air Force: The 13th Air Force moved to Hickam Air Force Base from Guam in May to give that service a war-fighting headquarters like those of the other services. General Paul V. Hester, commander of the Pacific Air Forces, was quoted in press reports: "We're building an air operations center and war-fighting headquarters that serves the entire Pacific region."

The Air Force plans to establish a strike force on Guam that would include six bombers and 48 fighters rotating there from U.S. bases. In addition, 12 refueling aircraft, which are essential to long-range projection of air power, would be stationed at Andersen Air Force Base there.

Further, three Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance aircraft would be based on Guam. Global Hawks can range 12,000 miles, at altitudes up to 65,000 feet, for 35 hours, which means they can cover Asia from Bangkok to Beijing with sensors making images of 40,000 square miles a day.

Navy: The USS Kitty Hawk, the conventionally-powered aircraft carrier based at Yokosuka, Japan, is slated for replacement by 2008. The United States wants to station a nuclear-powered carrier there while some Japanese politicians want the last of the conventionally-powered carriers, the John F. Kennedy, to be chosen.

The Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, whose war-fighting element is Joint Task Force 519, has moved three attack submarines to Guam to put them in the western Pacific and would probably be assigned an additional carrier from the Atlantic Fleet to be based at Pearl Harbor."

This is a start, but I am not sure that the naval presence is enough. I would like to see more attack submarines in the region. Of course, in order to accomplish that, Congress may have to rethink the Seawolf approporiations and add money for more boats to be produced. All in all, this will still take some 3 years to accomplish. You can bet the rent or mortgage payment that the Chinese and our home grown leftists will be whining and bleating about this. - Sailor

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