The Air Force has chosen the island of Tinian as the preferred alternative for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Pacific Air Forces divert activities and exercises initiative, according to a press release. The initiative was created to establish divert capabilities for training activities, and to ensure the ability to meet mission requirements even if access to Andersen AFB, Guam, or other locations in the western Pacific is limited or denied. “The divert initiative in CNMI will create the only divert airfield in the western Pacific and provide the US Air Force the capability to conduct either temporary or sustained refueling operations from an additional location in the region,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said, adding that it also will give USAF another location to use when supporting humanitarian aid or contingency responses in the region. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said she believes the initiative “will provide critical strategic operational and exercise capabilities for US forces and provide economic benefits to the local community.”
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.