The U.S. Navy is realigning the positioning of its fleet with an emphasis on the Pacific citing the growth of Asian economies and the rise of China's military build up and North Korea's continued threat. Among assets being moved are some of the Navy's most advanced aircraft, ships, weapons and force projection platforms.
The plan to shift 60% of its ships to the Pacific are in keeping with a directive by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Adm. Cecil Haney, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The Obama Administration said this policy is a continuation of the Bush Administration policy.
Examples of types of platforms and weapons to arrive in the Pacific are Littoral Combat Ship, which are capable of operating in much shallower waters, the EA-18G plane, a supersonic radar and communications jamming aircraft, Virginia-class submarines, the Navy's most advanced submarine class to date, along with a 2,500 strong regiment of U.S. Marines which will be rotated through Darwin Australia with frequent visits to Singapore.
CAPABILITIES MOVING IN
B1-B Lancer Heavy Bomber - Built by North American Rockwell and Boeing and first entered service in 1986. The Stealth aircraft is capable of traveling as speeds greater than mach 2 and is a long range bomber carrying conventional smart bombs, guided bombs, modified missiles, and nuclear weapons. The bombers maximum range without midair refueling is 7,454 miles.
EA-18g (Growler) is a 2 seat aircraft carrier based plane based on the F/A-18 fighter jet capable of supersonic speeds and entered service in 2009. It is designed to jam enemy radar and communications and has newer advanced signal capabilities built by Northrup Grumman. Its maximum service range is 1,467 without midair refueling.
Littoral Combat Ships - Designed to be stealthy with irregular hull angles and radar absorbing paint, these tend to be smaller and can operate much closer to shore to deal with asymmetric threats. The first of this class of new ships was launched in 2008. All have a heliport capable of landing and carrying two SH-60 Seahawk helicopters. Each are also capable of traditional surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and are also equipped with a Mine countermeasures module and an Irregular warfare module.
Virgina-class Advanced Submarines - Displacing 7.900 metric tons, these nuclear powered fast attack submarines are designed for littoral and open ocean warfare. They are capable of speeds greater than 29 mph, the exact speed remains classified and it is capable of diving to at least 800 feet, again the exact depth remains classified. Its weapons compliment include 12 × VLS (BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile) tubes & 4 × 533mm torpedo tubes (Mk-48 torpedo) carrying 38x torpedoes & missiles.
U.S. Marines - A 2,500 strong regiment of Marines comes complete with its own MAGTF, Marine Air Ground Task Force, capable of prosecuting a Sea, Air and Land invasion on its own and holding new territory until back up arrives. Additionally, this regiment to be based in Darwin Australia, will be supported by a rotating MEU, Marine Expeditionary Unit, complete with landing craft, tanks, and heavy artillery. All together, they will have fighter jets, helicopters, landing craft, advanced bombers, assault and infantry troops, command and control, and heavy artillery, intelligence and special operations capable Marines.
EXISTING CAPABILITIES AND TREATIES
Six aircraft carriers are already based in the Pacific, and more support ships will also be arriving in the Pacific in the coming years. A greater number of the Navy's most advanced Guided Missile Cruisers are also finding new home ports in the Pacific.
The increased presence is part of a multi-pronged approach, both in response to the U.S.'s treaty obligations such as with Japan, and the ANZUS treaty with Australia, and long-standing U.S. policy of protecting Taiwan. Additionally, nations like Singapore have reached out to the U.S. seeking greater cooperation and protection as a buffer to growing Chinese influence in the region.
Additionally, the Air Force has been moving some of its assets into the Pacific theater at places like Guam, and on U.S. bases in Japan. Aircraft such as the B1-B Lance Bomber, a supersonic stealth-like bomber which has also been receiving advanced weapons upgrades, and the reliable B-52 have seen a double digit growth rates at various U.S. airfields scattered across the eastern Pacific Ocean. Advanced listening and spying capabilities have also seen an increase in the region with several new undisclosed outposts now operating according to various reports.