WASHINGTON, DC– The US Department of Defense (DoD) is reportedly planning to decommission its entire fleet of F-15 fighter jets in Okinawa, Japan, without replacing them with a permanent US military presence.
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin warning that the move undermines efforts to counter a possible attack by the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Liberation Army Deterring Taiwan can be seen by Beijing as a sign of weakness. Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) also signed the letter.
In part, lawmakers wrote: “We believe that Department of Defense plans to replace permanently stationed fighters with rotational forces will result in a noticeable reduction in American forward combat capability in the Indo-Pacific, lower the bar for aggression, and demonstrate an ongoing disparity between the talking points of the.” Biden Administration on the Indo-Pacific and America’s Actual Obligations in the Region.”
“We are concerned that the Defense Department’s decision sends the wrong signal, not only to the CCP but also to our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific. We therefore call for a briefing of Congress on the Department of Defense’s actions, detailing specific steps to replace the deterrent value and combat capability of any assets removed from the Indo-Pacific region, as well as the government’s plan to have a military force in the Indo-Pacific that would be able to withstand CCP attack and deter an invasion of Taiwan,” the lawmakers wrote.
click HERE to view the letter, or read the text of the letter below.
Dear Secretary Austin:
We write with concern over recent reports that the US Department of Defense (DoD) will be decommissioning its entire fleet of F-15 fighter jets currently based in Okinawa, Japan without assuming a permanent presence anywhere in Japan substitute.
According to public reports, the US Air Force (USAF) plans to phase out two squadrons of F-15 Eagles permanently based in Okinawa. This decision would affect half of the approximately 100 USAF fighters in Japan. While we agree on the need to modernize the Air Force fleet to counter the growing threat posed by the People’s Liberation Army, we are concerned by reports that suggest there will not be a permanent presence to replace the Okinawa F-15. Instead, the USAF plans to send F-22 fighters from Alaska to Okinawa on a rotational basis only.
As you know, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is expanding its aggression in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. In his report to the 20th National Congress, Xi Jinping’s CCP General Secretary stated: “[w]We have shown fighting spirit and a firm determination never to give in to coercion” and “the wheels of history roll on towards the reunification of China… The full reunification of our country must be accomplished, and it can undoubtedly be accomplished!” It is perfectly clear that Secretary-General Xi intends to take over Taiwan and establish the CCP as a hegemon in the Indo-Pacific, with disastrous strategic, geopolitical, military and economic consequences for US interests.
In this regard, we believe that the DoD’s plans to replace permanently stationed fighters with rotational troops will result in a noticeable reduction in American forward combat capability in the Indo-Pacific, lower the bar for aggression and demonstrate an ongoing disparity between the Biden administration’s pronouncements and points to the real involvement of the Indo-Pacific and America in the region.
This decision is particularly puzzling in light of the 2022 National Defense Strategy, which explicitly prioritizes deterring aggression and clarifies that “[e]Early and ongoing consideration, engagement and, where possible, cooperation with allies and partners in planning are essential to advancing our common interests.” We are concerned that the Defense Department’s decision sends the wrong signal, not only to the CCP but to also to our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific. We therefore request a briefing of Congress on the actions of the Department of Defense that articulates concrete steps to replace the deterrent value and combat capability of all assets removed from the Indo-Pacific region, as well as the government’s plan to build a force position in the Indo-Pacific resilient to attack the CCP and able to deter an invasion of Taiwan.
We look forward to your timely reply.