A recent Pentagon report cites Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as praising the increasingly discussed “Quad” of Indo-Pacific countries interested in strengthening collaborative deterrence efforts to contain China.
Referring to China’s “malign influence” in the region, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Austin said the partnership of the United States, Japan, Australia and India was vital to the security in the region. Perhaps this means the U.S. and its “Quad” partners might more formally enshrine a regional alliance with specific kinds of documentation or a formal agreement of some kind.
The prospect is quite interesting, in part because the combined force of the four countries would appear to greatly impact the security equation in Asia. For example, the United States and Australia are co-developing new hypersonic weapons, India has recently hosted B-1 bombers and Japan is both an Aegis missile defense-partner as well as a massive customer of the F-35 stealth jet fighter. Three of the four countries now operate F-35s jets, a dynamic which greatly fortifies interoperability among Japan, Australia and the United States. An F-35 jet could operate as part of a common thread joining Quad forces together, as U.S. F-35s could fly missions from Australian ships and Australian or Japanese F-35s could perhaps operate from U.S. amphibious assault ships.
For the United States, having an opportunity to stage operations, base troops or simply project power from land locations in Australia or Japan, for instance, introduces many new dynamic possibilities when it comes to possible military operations. Of course, while America does operate a handful of vital assets from its Pacific territory of Guam, an ability to stage or launch large-scale operations from within the region introduces some dynamic possibilities for deterrence.
Perhaps an amphibious attack could be successfully coordinated from Japan or Australia, and certainly India presents a credible threat from the Western border of China. The collective impact of all of these countries, each of which possess strong and growing militaries, could potentially equal or even surpass the European-centric military alliance known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Also, it might be prudent to incorporate some kind of formal agreement similar to NATO’s Article V which ensures a massive collective response in the event that one member was attacked.
Modernization efforts also align the Quad nations because F-35 jet upgrades impact three of the countries in a way that expands collaboration and joint performance. Moreover, the United States and Japan have an ongoing history of substantial connectivity and synergy regarding several key weapons system such as the SM-3 interceptor missile, Global Hawk drone and ship-based Aegis Combat Systems configured with radar, fire control, targeting and weapons applications.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.