U.S. Can Bring to Bear Significant Tactical Airpower in Event of Korean Hostilities
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — The increased tension in northwest Asia associated with recent North Korean threats and U.S. counter moves is drawing attention to the U.S. forces stationed in the region and which ones might be brought to bear in event of a conflict. Most of the U.S. combat air power in Asia is within easy reach of the Korean peninsula.
The carrier USS Carl Vinson and its strike group have been moved to the region, with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) Two embarked, according to press reports. The air wing includes four squadrons of F/A-18/E/F strike fighters — usually equipped with a total of 44 aircraft — and a squadron of five EA-18G electronic attack aircraft, plus squadrons of E-2C radar warning aircraft and MH-60R and MH-60S helicopters.
CVW-5, similarly equipped, which embarks onboard USS Ronald Reagan, is ashore in two bases in Japan while the carrier is in maintenance availability, according to a source who declined to be named. CVW-5’s strike fighter squadrons all are equipped with Super Hornets, and its E-2 squadron is equipped with the new D model. Presumably, CVW-5’s aircraft could stage combat missions from shore bases in the area.
Independently deployed to Naval Air Facility Misawa, Japan, is an expeditionary electronic attack squadron with five EA-18Gs.
Marine Aircraft Group 11 at Marine Corps Iwakuni, Japan, is equipped with the Marine Corps’ first operational squadron of F-35B strike fighters, with 10 on strength. Also on strength are two F/A-18 Hornet fighter- attack squadrons, one with F/A-18Cs and one with F/A-18Ds. At Kadena Air Base in Okinawa is a detachment of AV-8Bs that deploy on the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard.
Pacific Air Forces has four fighter wings in the region: one with F-15Cs in Kadena, Japan; two with F-16Cs in South Korea — one of which also has some A-10s assigned — and one with electronic attack F-16Cs at Misawa. A wing of f-22s is available in Alaska, plus a Hawaii Air National Guard F-22A unit in Hawaii.
The Air Force also rotates detachments of B-52 bombers to Guam. KC-135 tankers and E-3 radar warning aircraft also are deployed to Kadena.
The U.S. Navy also has considerable strike power available in the form of Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles on cruisers and destroyers in the carrier strike groups (one cruiser and two destroyers) or as part of the surface force based in Japan, including two cruisers and eight destroyers. Possibly deployed in the region is an Ohio-class guided-missile submarine, armed with Tomahawks.