Republican lawmakers have issued a public letter to U.S. military leadership following reports that the Pentagon is seeking to end the presence of dozens of fighter jets in Japan without creating a new permanent force to replace them.
According to Defense News, the Pentagon is planning to remove two squadrons of F-15C Eagle fighters that are currently stationed in Japan. The effort is intended to help modernize the military by phasing out old aircraft such as the F-15, which has been in service since 1976.
The vacancy left by the maneuver, however, will only be covered by rotational forces and not a permanent fighter presence, leaving the close U.S. ally in a tight spot amid ongoing tensions with communist China and North Korea.
As such, Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, and Reps. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin and Michael McCaul of Texas, issued a letter (pdf) requesting that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin explain the Pentagon’s failure to reinforce the units.
“As you know, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is expanding its aggression in the Indo-Pacific and beyond,” the letter reads.
“We are concerned that [the Department of Defense’s] decision sends the wrong signal, not only to the CCP, but also to our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific.”
The decision to end the stationing of the two squadrons would terminate the presence of at least 48 fighters. The letter’s signatories say that the Pentagon’s plans to replace the squadron’s F-22 fighters from Alaska on a rotational basis would not be sufficient to make up for that loss.
Instead, they say, such an effort would result in “a tangible reduction in American forward combat power.”
“While we agree with the need to modernize the Air Force’s fleet in order to counter the rising threat of the People’s Liberation Army, we are concerned with reporting that indicates that there will be no permanent presence to replace the Okinawa F-15s,” the letter said.
Moreover, the letter said, the signatories claimed that the removal of the two squadrons without adequate permanent replacement would decrease the United States’ ability to deter CCP leader Xi Jinping from fulfilling his vow to forcibly unite Taiwan with the Chinese mainland.
“It is abundantly clear that General Secretary Xi intends to take over Taiwan and establish the CCP as the hegemon in the Indo-Pacific, which would have catastrophic strategic, geopolitical, military, and economic consequences for U.S. interests,” the letter said.