As the US draws back its military support for Afghanistan operations, Air Force leadership is trying to find a way to balance increased demands for engagement across US Pacific Command from Australia to Thailand, PACAF Commander Gen. Hawk Carlisle told the Daily Report. Carlisle announced this past summer his command would reanimate a version of the Cold War-era “Checkered Flag” deployments, where most of the tactical air force would deploy every two years to locations in Europe to train with allied air forces. But the new concept is its own creation, Carlisle said in a Jan. 3 interview. “The way we have it planned out here, it won’t be six-month rotations, because in most cases we won’t need to do that,” he said. In many cases, units can expect to be part of “theater security packages,” forces that supplement exercises or bases during events. For example, Kadena currently hosts F-22s as part of a TSP. Other units, particularly Air National Guard and Reserve flying squadrons, would deploy for a month or so to support several events, such as a Cope Tiger in Thailand or Commando Sling in Singapore. “It is still taking advantage of the (Air Expeditionary Force) structure, but we will have more flexibility as to why and where we use them in the rotation,” Carlisle 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.