In an attempt to send an immediate message to China amid tensions in the region, the US Air Force is deploying 25 F-22 stealth fighter jets to the western Pacific for an exercise this month, according to CNN.
F-22s Raptors from the Hawaii Air National Guard and from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, will be deployed to Guam and Tinian islands for Operation Pacific Iron 2021, set to make the US regional forces “more lethal, adaptive and resilient”.
Defense analyst Carl Schuster, former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center, emphasized that deploying a large number of F-22s for the exercise raises alarm in China, who only has 20 to 24 operational fifth-generation fighters.
Such flexing of muscles can be a trigger when relations are tense over the Pacific.
The South China Morning Post quoted the retired Chinese senior colonel, Zhou Bo, saying that such a large deployment of advanced fighter aircraft “will definitely not help ease ongoing tensions in the region”.