The Buzz

Get Ready, China: America's Stealth F-22 Has Just Been Deployed to Australia

The U.S. Air Force has deployed a squadron of Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor stealth fighters to Australia. The goal of the 12-aircraft deployment is for the two nations to train together as the United States renews its focus on maintaining its dominance in the Pacific theatre against a rising China.

“We are thrilled to be here and working with our Australian counterparts,” said Lt. Col. Dave Skalicky, the 90th Fighter Squadron commander, in a statement. “They have been phenomenal hosts, and their level of support allows us to increase our combined capabilities.”

According to the U.S. Air Force, the deployment is part of U.S. Pacific Command commander Adm. Harry Harris’ Enhanced Air Cooperation Initiative, which falls under a U.S. and Australia Force Posture Agreement.

“Usually we only integrate with the F-22s at major exercises in the U.S. such as Red Flag or during coalition operations, so we appreciate the efforts of the 90th FS having traveled a significant distance to Australia to join us in our backyard this year,” said Wing Commander Mick Grant, 75 Squadron commander said in a statement. “Northern Australia’s extreme climate and distinctive training areas provide our ally unique opportunities to train with their fifth-generation aircraft in a range of environmental conditions.”

During the exercises, the Raptors will train with Australia’s fleet of F/A-18A/B Hornets. The training will encompass both offensive and defensive training missions at various locations in the Northern Territory and Queensland. Indeed, according to the Air Force, the combined training activity will mark the most extensive joint training involving the F-22 with Australia in both duration and scale. The F-22 deployment is scheduled through to the beginning of March.

Training in Australia is beneficial to both the U.S. Air Force and the Australians. The two air forces would likely have to work closely together during any conflict in the Pacific or during an oversea contingency. Operating together allows the two air forces an opportunity to learn each other’s capabilities and how best to operate together. Moreover, it affords Australia an opportunity to learn how fifth-generation fighters operate as Canberra gears up to receive its own fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

The F-35 is not an air superiority fighter like the F-22; however, many of the operating concepts are similar. Thus operating together with the F-22 affords Australia an opportunity to gain insights on how to operate their future fleet.

Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for The National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @davemajumdar.