WASHINGTON D.C.: Squadrons of U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth fighter planes have been deployed for exercises in the Pacific, which analysts says is meant to convey a strong message to China.
Some 25 F-22s have landed at three air bases on Guam and one in the Northern Mariana Islands. The aircraft arrived from the Hawaii Air National Guard and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, to participate in Operation Pacific Iron 2021.
Additionally, 10 F-15E Strike Eagles and two C-130J Hercules cargo planes are participating in the exercise, Pacific Air Forces said in a statement this week.
The exercise, which includes some 800 Air Force personnel, is a "dynamic force employment operation to project forces into the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command's area of responsibility in support of the 2018 National Defense Strategy, which called on the military to be a more lethal, adaptive, and resilient force," the statement added.
Typical F-22 deployments include six to 12 planes.
The fifth-generation F-22 aircraft, with stealth technology and on-board sensor systems, is regarded as among the most advanced in the world.
It is believed that the exercise is meant to demonstrate to China the U.S. capability to quickly mass fighter planes.
"The Pacific Air Force is demonstrating that it can deploy as many or more fifth-generation aircraft into the theater on short notice than [China] currently has in its entire inventory," Carl Shuster, former operations director at the U.S. Pacific Command's Joint Intelligence Center, told CNN.
"Demonstrating the U.S. Air Force's Agile Combat capability sends a strong deterrent signal to China and reassuring one to U.S. allies and partners. China will try to follow it closely."
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Dan Leaf noted that the exercise demonstrates the U.S. military's capability.
"If I'm China, I'd pay attention to the message, whether it's intended for them or not, because this is capability both in the aircraft, the F-22, and the flexibility and expeditionary nature of the U.S. Air Force that goes back to World War I, that they [China] can't duplicate," Leaf said.