U.S. Air Force Deployment of 150 Elite Fighter Jets to Alaska in Face-Off with Russia and China
Oct. 2, 2020 (EIRNS)—The United States is in the process of deploying, over the next 15 months, 150 advanced fighter jets—F-22 Raptors and F-35 Lightning II jets—to Alaskan air bases, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) announced at a Woodrow Wilson Center conference, “The U.S. Air Force Arctic Strategy, Alaska and the New Arctic,” Sept. 14. This is the biggest single U.S. deployment of fifth generation stealth fighters anywhere; the aircraft will be stationed at Eielson Air Force Base in central Alaska, only 600 miles from Russia’s border. The organizers of the deployment contend this will send a “message” to Russia and China about U.S. “power projection capabilities” in the Arctic.
The U.S. Air Force operates a fleet of 187 F-22s and approximately 250 F-35s of such aircraft worldwide. The 150 of these fighter jets scheduled to be stationed in Alaska constitutes a significant amount of the total fleet deployed to this single place. At the same time, as part of this change in force doctrine, the Pentagon is sending about 1,500 airmen, nearly doubling active-duty personnel at the Eielson base, and will spend $500 million to accommodate aircraft and troops. Six of the aircraft have already been sent to Alaska.
This fighter force will face off against Russia and China. The policy for this shift is set forth in the Department of Defense’s June 2019 “Arctic Strategy” report, which flows directly from, and is a component of the 2018 National Defense Strategy. The “Arctic Strategy” report baselessly charges, “In different ways, Russia and China are challenging the rules-based order in the Arctic.” and “U.S. interests include ... limiting the ability of China and Russia to leverage the region as a corridor for competition that advances their strategic objectives through malign or coercive behavior.”
Maj. Gen. Vladimir Popov, Honored Military Pilot of Russia, told Sputnik Sept. 26 that from the point of view of air defense, Alaska is already well-guarded by NORAD’s aerospace defense system, with its combat aviation serving as the main strike potential. “Alaska is remote from the U.S. mainland, but is an outpost in relation to Russia—we are separated only by a strait, and the border is literally within the line of sight,” Popov said. “This is a strategic region for the U.S. Adding 150 more fighters would at least double the combat potential of the existing forces there.” Popov said the U.S. deployment would be mainly defensive. But the U.S. F-35 is not an ordinary plane. It is the most advanced U.S. fifth generation stealth fighter, purportedly capable of air superiority and carrying out strike missions. It has a range of 590 nautical miles, meaning it is capable of crossing the Bering Strait and almost 100 miles inland over Russia. The emplacement of more than 50 of them in Alaska by next year could constitute a tripwire.
In contradistinction to this, the Schiller Institute’s Sept 26 International Youth Conference proposed building a tunnel under the Bering Strait, a corridor of the World Land-Bridge that would connect the United States and Russia, driving world development and decreasing tensions.