• Melo Acuna

COVID-19 no barrier to preparedness

Despite COVID-19, US Pacific Air Force maintains military preparedness

MANILA – The Pacific Air Force supports their Department of Defense specifically during the COVID-19 pandemic but still maintains their military readiness and remains supportive of their whole-of-government approach.

Thus said General Charles Q. Brown, Jr. in a telephonic conference with international journalists hosted by the. U. S. Department of State’s Asia Pacific Media Hub earlier today.

General Brown said they have been working very closely with their installation commanders at different international locations and coordinates with their respective host nations.

“We’ve been proactive with our COVID measures, which has enabled our lines of effort for PACAF (Pacific Air Force), which is Strengthening Alliances and Partnerships, Increased Lethality and Interoperability, and Operating Conceptions for Great Power Competition, for all of those to continue,” he said.

He recalled having a Pacific Air Chiefs video conference where 19 different air forces in attendance where their shared best practices, lessons learned, and collaboration for activities related to COVID-19 pandemic. He added Airman to Airman Talks have been held between the US and Royal Thai Air Force, Washington State Air National Guard, and staff at the PACAF headquarters in Honolulu. He added dialogues are due to be held with Indonesia and Bangladesh in the near future.

General Brown said his command either led or participated in 50 exercises every year but COVID has affected their ability to realized and maintain the same numbers of training.

He said they have taken steps to operate bombers in different ways, “from a broader array of locations with greater operational resilience.” He added they have received the first two of 54 F-35s to Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. They have concentrated stte of combat-coded fifth generation fighters.

“And we’ll have that number by December 2021 to get to that full complement of 54,” he added.

In his opening remarks, General Brown said peace in the Indo-Pacific (region) is happening because of the willingness of the free nations to work together “and U.S. combat power postured in the region.”

He expressed concern over what he referred to as “increasing opportunistic activity by the People’s Republic of China to coerce its neighbors and press its unlawful maritime claims.” He said all these take place while the world is focused on addressing COVID-19 pandemic.

He maintained the United States’ commitment to upholding the rules-based international order to “maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific” that recognizes the protection of the sovereignty of every nation while assuring all of the peaceful resolution of disputes sans coercion, where such a situation promotes free, fair and reciprocal trade while maintain the freedom of navigation and overflight.

Asked of his reactions to reports of China’s pan to declare air defense identification zones over the South China Sea, General Brown said if China were to claim an air defense identification zone in the South China Sea, such would impact all countries that support the freedom of navigation and overflight.

“A free and open Indo-Pacific is to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” he said. He added such move would impinge some of the international air space.

“It is important for us to pay attention to something like this. This is probably, it really foes against the rules-based international order, and that’s concerning not only for PACAF and the United States, but I would say many of the nations in the region,” he concluded. (Melo M. Acuña)

General Charles Q. Brown, Jr. Commander, Pacific Air Force (PACAF). (US State Department photo)

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