Saturday, February 17, 2007

US Deploys Stealth Fighters to Okinawa

Friday, February 16, 2007 · Last updated 10:19 p.m. PT

U.S. deploys stealth fighters to Okinawa


TOKYO -- The U.S. took its newest and most expensive stealth fighter on the road Saturday, deploying the F-22 to an air base on the southern Japan island of Okinawa for its first overseas mission.

The first two of a dozen F-22s roared into the Okinawa skies from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia for a three-to-four month deployment to show "the flexibility that U.S. forces have to meet our ongoing commitments and security obligations throughout the Pacific," the U.S. military said in a statement.

Bringing the jets to Japan is a way of showing off the fighter's strengths in a region with a complex security balance that is being challenged by the rapid growth of Chinese and North Korean military power.

"It's a very formidable asset," said Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright, commander of the U.S. forces in Japan. Wright added that it is important for the F-22 pilots from
Langley to get the experience of flying abroad and training with the Japanese.

Though Wright, speaking to reporters in Tokyo before the arrival, said there are no plans to regularly bring F-22s to Japan after the current mission ends, F-22 fighters are scheduled to be deployed in Alaska and possibly Hawaii, which would give a significant boost to the Air Force's fire power in the Pacific.

The U.S. is not alone in boosting its air capabilities in Asia.

The arrival of the planes - the rest were scheduled to arrive Sunday - comes less than two months after China unveiled its J-10 fighter, which is believed to be one
of the most advanced used by any air force in the world today, though it is not seen as a serious technological rival to the F-22.