United States Defense Leon Panetta has stated plans are in motion to deploy the F-35 stealth fighter jet to military bases in Japan. This would be the first overseas deployment of the aircraft, and they are scheduled to be sent to the U.S. Air Force base in Iwakuni by the year 2017. Panetta says the jets will be an important enhancement to the U.S.’s security presence in the Asia-Pacific.
Giving a speech about the winding down of the war in Afghanistan, the Defense Secretary explained that it will still be necessary for the U.S. to maintain a projection of force, both in the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. The plans for the future include relocating naval forces to achieve a 60/40 split between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, hopefully by 2020. After Iraq and Afghanistan, the other plan is to increase the presence of Army and Marine forces, as well as the military’s most advanced aircraft, which includes deployments of F-22s, MV-22 Ospreys, which arrived earlier this year to much protest in Okinawa, and now the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
In other regards to Okinawa, Panetta stated the U.S. had concluded some of the major agreements to relocate the large presence of military personnel on the island, and in turn develop Guam as a place for relocation. Rotating marine deployments have already been agreed upon in Australia, and the U.S. is also to expand that allies in the Philippines and Singapore. In terms of China, probably the largest motivation behind the increased presence in the Asia-Pacific, the U.S. hopes to expand its dialogue and exchanges with the country.