While US Southern Command does not have “sufficient” US military assets to help in the fight against the drug trade, it hasn’t faced a significant shortfall in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assistance, SOUTHCOM Commander Gen. John Kelly said Jan. 8 during a Pentagon briefing. However, the command is encouraging partner nations throughout the region to purchase its own ISR assets to help surveil targets in their own countries, he said. These will likely be cheaper models manufactured in other countries that would be more easily acquired, Kelly said. SOUTHCOM largely depends on surveillance from P-3 Orion aircraft, flown by both the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Navy. “I don’t get much ISR, but I don’t need an awful lot more,” Kelly said. A greater need is helicopters to be used to interdict ships carrying drugs, he said.
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.