New Pacific commander takes on half the world

Task: To boost U.S. clout in area without new resources

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In addition to the Army forces based there, five of the 11 U.S. aircraft-carrier strike groups are based in the PACOM theater, as are three of its six squadrons of the newest fifth-generation fighter jets, the F-22 Raptor.

The F-22 Raptor is the most expensive piece of military hardware in history. For $77.4 billion, the Pentagon bought a total of 187 planes - a cost of $413 million each.

The fighter jets are designed to outfly and outfight competitors from even the most advanced militaries, providing U.S. commanders with the guarantee of air superiority vital for the projection of military power across the vast Pacific region.

But the Raptor provides not only superiority in the air, say U.S. officials, who have hinted at secret cyberwar capabilities.

The F-22 is “an extremely capable, leading-edge technology platform,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael A. Keltz, director of strategic planning and policy for PACOM, told bloggers last year.

He said the aircraft gives commanders the ability to see and act, “not just in the air-to-air regime, but also in the cyberregime, the electronic-warfare regime.”

The cyberdomain is a key area for the command because China, PACOM’s largest and most threatening potential enemy in the region, likely would strike first with cyberweapons in any war, according to a recent report by a congressional blue-ribbon panel.

A pre-emptive Chinese cyberstrike would be designed to disrupt the electronic networks on which U.S. forces rely to organize and move troops and their supplies of ammunition and fuel around the Pacific, according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

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