- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 3, 2014

As part of its mostly non-military pivot to Asia, the Pentagon last month sent a powerful political signal to China by dispatching six front-line F-22 stealth jets to take part in a joint exercise with Malaysia.

It was the first time F-22s were used in the biennial U.S.-Malaysian military war games known as Cope Taufan.


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The Malaysians are a key focus of Pentagon efforts to bolster U.S. alliances and ties to Southeast Asia. Kuala Lumpur is among the more silent partners in the region looking for U.S. leadership to counterbalance China and who privately have voiced alarm over Chinese bullying in the South China Sea in maritime disputes with most states in the region.

Judging by a review of Chinese state-run media, the message sent by the F-22s was received loudly in Beijing.

According to U.S. officials, the Chinese viewed the F-22s in Malaysia as an opportunity to learn the war-fighting characteristics of Malaysia’s Russian-made Su-30s that are similar to Chinese Su-30s that would be encountered in any future conflict with China.

The Chinese also believed the exercises allowed the Air Force to operate its F-22s in strategic locations near China’s coasts. F-22s have been based temporarily in Northeast Asia but the deployment in the southeast is new.


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Chinese press reports also charged that the U.S. F-22s in Malaysia — operating from the Royal Malaysian Air Base at Butterworth about 218 miles north of the capital — improved U.S. combat readiness for a future attack on China.

F-22s in the past were deployed from home their home base in Hawaii to Japan, South Korea and Guam.

Defense officials say the F-22’s unique capability is called “supercruise” that allows the jet conduct long-range supersonic flights with a large weapons payload.

That is needed for the Pentagon’s largely-secret Air Sea Battle Concept that calls for swiftly defeating China in a conflict by attacking strategic targets deep inside China, including command centers, underground facilities, missile bases, oil storage facilities and electrical grid elements.

The bad news for U.S. war planners is that China’s air defenses are becoming increasingly more capable of attacking such stealth jets. Russia announced last month it will sell China its top-of-the-line S-400 anti-missile and air defense system, considered one of the most advanced in the world.