Inside the Ring: Air Force on China threat

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Air Force Gen. Herbert J. “Hawk” Carlisle, commander of the Pacific Air Forces, recently outlined his service’s role in the Pentagon shift to Asia, known as both the “pivot” and Air Sea Battle, a concept to counter China’s high-tech weapons.

The four-star general’s candid comments to defense reporters prompted charges in Chinese state-run media that the Pentagon is treating China as a Cold War enemy.

China is aggressively seeking military control over disputed islands in the South China Sea and pressuring Japan over its control of the Senkakus in the East China Sea, Gen. Carlisle said during a breakfast July 29.

Gen. Carlisle said Chinese territorial claims increase the risk of military confrontation.

In addition to the Senkakus, China is asserting its claims over other disputed islands, including the Second Thomas Shoal and other islets in the Spratly islands. China also claims to control most of the South China Sea through its declared Nine Dash Line, impinging on large areas of international waters.

China is being “fairly aggressive” and as a result “runs itself the risk of creating the potential for miscalculation,” Gen. Carlisle said.

The general said the maritime disputes involving China “are all ripe for challenge.”

“And that’s something we think about every day — from [U.S. Pacific Command commander Adm. SamuelJ.LocklearII ]— to every one of the components of what we can do to stabilize those situations.”

Additionally, China’s “fairly assertive, aggressive behavior” has increased demands by states such as Japan and the Philippines for a greater U.S. military presence, he said.

As part of the U.S. strategic shift to Asia, the first base for new F-35 jets will be at one of the nine Air Force bases in the Pacific, Gen. Carlisle said. The jets will not be based in Hawaii, where the Air Force’s most advanced warplane, the F-22, is based.

Gen. Carlisle said the Air Force is not planning on building more bases in the Asia Pacific as part of the shift. Instead, the service’s buzz phrase is “places, not bases,” where Air Force power can be used in the region.

The general then compared the rotation of warplanes in and out of Asia to the Cold War policy of moving U.S. forces temporarily to Europe to deal with the Soviet Union.

That comment prompted an unusual attack from state-controlled Chinese media. Beijing published more than a dozen reports criticizing the general.

Chinese military commentators, all known to represent the Chinese government position, accused Gen. Carlisle of seeking to “encircle” China with advanced warplanes. A retired Chinese admiral, Yin Zhuo, was quoted in one report as saying Gen. Carlisle’s comments on Asia military deployments carried a “strong Cold War flavor,” the Chinese government’s euphemism for anti-communism.

That Chinese propaganda theme was echoed in recent months in writings by pro-Chinese academics in the United States, many of whom have written that the pivot to Asia is a little more than a war plan against China.

Gen. Carlisle said the Navy and the Air Force are moving a majority of forces to the Pacific. The Navy is deploying 60 percent of its warships to the region.

“The Air Force is turning to that in the Pacific,” he said, noting the addition of 12 F-22s at Japan’s Kadena Air Base and 24 F-16s in South Korea to bolster jets already based there.

Half of all U.S. F-22s, which the Pentagon has said would be the lead aircraft in any conflict with China, are now deployed in the Asia Pacific in Alaska and Hawaii.

Long-range Global Hawk drones also are based in the region, and B-2 and B-52 bombers are rotated regularly to Guam.

Another part of the U.S. military buildup in the Pacific is the addition of special operations forces. Gen. Carlisle said the Air Force will deploy new tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey aircraft to transport special forces in the Pacific.

“In a lot of ways, we’ll increasingly move south and west with the rotational presence — Darwin, Tindal, [in Australia], Changi East in Singapore, Korat in Thailand, Trivandrum in India,” Gen. Carlisle said.

On Air Sea Battle, the goal is better war-fighting integration, he said.

“That is what Air Sea Battle is all about. It is cross-domain coordination; it’s cross-domain capabilities,” Gen. Carlisle said. “It’s the ability to do it in a denied and contested environment.”

War games by the Navy and Air Force are working to flesh out the Air Sea Battle concept.

“It’s done some great work in looking at kill chains and how to do cross-domain ops,” he said. “But now we’ve got to bring it into the Air Force and the fleet and the Marines and the Army, and actually exercise it and start working it.”

Homeland missile defense

After more than four years of focusing U.S. missile defenses in Europe, the Obama administration appears to be shifting its missile defenses to defend the U.S. homeland.

One reason, according to the director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, is North Korea’s deployment of a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, known as the KN-08.

Vice Adm. James D. Syring outlined the shift during a presentation to a missile defense conference in Alabama on Aug. 14.

According to slides of his talk, among several changes in U.S. missile defenses is “the emergence of North Korean road mobile ICBM[s],” along with “increased attention to homeland defense.”

Adm. Syring said Iran may have the technical capability to flight test an ICBM in two years.

To meet the threat, the Pentagon is deploying 14 additional long-range missile-defense interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, and is considering an interceptor base on the East Coast.

“We are taking these steps to stay ahead of the challenge posed by Iran and North Korea’s development of longer-range ballistic missile capabilities,” Adm. Syring stated in one slide.

Army email embarrassment

One reality of the digital age is the unpleasant experience of clicking the “send” button on a blast email message that you didn’t intend to send. That was what happened to Army spokesman Dov Schwartz last week.

Mr. Schwartz, a spokesman at the Pentagon, mistakenly sent a mass email to news reporters that was an internal assessment revealing how the Army catalogs and characterizes news reporters’ requests and coverage.

The email from the Army’s Media Relations Division had the subject line, “MRD Dailies of Note, Aug. 21, 2013.” Shortly after it was sent, Mr. Schwartz sent a second email “recalling” the email.

Several items discussed stories defense reporters were covering, including the terrorist trial of Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. It included an “outlook” for the media coverage: “neutral [people]” and noted that next steps were to “escort media. Continue to monitor coverage.”

Similar assessments listed other stories, including work by Washington Examiner columnist Paul Bedard on a Pentagon contract to send more than 592,000 rounds of AK-47 ammunition for Afghanistan. Classified as “neutral,” the report said coverage would be monitored.

Other queries were made by USA Today, Army Times and a book author that were assessed as “positive” or “balanced.”

However, one entry was on the politically sensitive issue of gender-neutral standards for physical training, a hot topic considering the Pentagon’s new policy of putting women in front-line ground combat units.

Army Times reporter Lance Bacon was said to be working on a piece on “developing the new [physical training] test.”

In its final notation, the email contained this: “OUTLOOK: Positive (Deceive Action).”

Was the Army planning to deceive Mr. Bacon? Asked about the email, the reporter quipped: “Can’t wait to hear the explanation on this!” He said he was told later that it was a typing mistake.

Mr. Schwartz agreed. In an email to Inside the Ring, he said there was no deception scheme. The reference was the result of a typographical error.

“Deceive Action” should have been written as “Decisive Action,” he said, as contained in an earlier item in the email.

“This was clearly a typo in the daily Media Relations report that was mistakenly sent to the press,” Mr. Schwartz said. “I did not review the report as closely as I should have that day. It was my error.”

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

Mr. ...

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