PACAF Key to Asia-Pacific Stability

Aviation Calendar 2009

Aviation Calendar 2009

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The Pacific theater is large, diverse and complicated, but the Airmen of Pacific Air Forces are up to the challenge, according to a senior PACAF leader speaking in Los Angeles Nov. 20.

Lt. Gen. Chip Utterback, 13th Air Force commander, kicked off the Air Force Association Global Warfare Symposium with a briefing on how PACAF approaches the vast Pacific theater, home to 36 countries, nearly 60 percent of the world’s population and six of the world’s largest armed forces.

“We are first and foremost challenged in the Pacific by the tyranny of time and distance,” General Utterback said. “That calculus drives virtually everything I do as a warfighter in the Pacific. It drives our planning (and) it drives our execution.”

The PACAF area of responsibility covers more than 100 million square miles, or 51 percent of the Earth’s surface, meaning the time it takes to get from one location to another can be a major challenge, the general said.

“We have strategically postured our forces throughout the Pacific to overcome not only those vast distances but the emerging threats, the traditional threats and the challenges we face in the Pacific,” General Utterback said.

This force posturing includes nine bases in the region from which the very latest in airpower technology operates, the general said. Three of seven planned F-22 Raptor squadrons will be assigned to the Pacific, two C-17 Globemaster III squadrons recently stood up in the AOR and the Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system soon will find a home at Guam, General Utterback said.

“And for several years now, we have maintained a continuous bomber presence out at Guam with either B-1 (Lancers), B-2 (Spirits), or that magnificent B-52 (Stratofortress) that continues to fly on and on,” the general said.

In 2009, Air Force, Marine and Navy fighters also will operate out of Guam on a regular basis, he added.

Although posturing forces and providing responsive combat capability is important, PACAF officials also understand that a stable Pacific can only be achieved by engaging with the area’s other nations, General Utterback said.

“(We) are promoting regional security and stability by continuing and expanding a robust program of military-to-military exchanges with our foreign friends,” the general said. “Some of these relationships are long-standing. Some of them are new (and) flourishing.”

Events like the PACAF-sponsored 2008 Pacific Rim Airpower Symposium, in which military representatives from 17 nations met to discuss disaster response, and the nearly 40 exercises a year PACAF forces participate in, are building “an absolutely necessary foundation for reliable communication” between military leaders across the region, General Utterback said.

These military-to-military exchanges are about building personal relationships, and the 45,000 total force Airmen assigned to PACAF are doing that both in the Pacific region and around the world, the general said. Some 2,050 PACAF Airmen are deployed worldwide every day, not counting the 6,800 7th Air Force Airmen deployed to the Korean peninsula, he said.

“We’re making a difference,” General Utterback said. “We’re out there every day extending America’s helping hand during crisis while teaching others how to deal with crisis. We’re not just fishing out there, we’re teaching others how to fish.”

Sam Highley

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