GUAM LOSES BID FOR AIR FORCE ‘RAPTOR’ SQUADROM

admin's picture

By Gerardo R. Partido

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, March 6) - Although Guam is still in the running to homeport an aircraft carrier group, the island has apparently lost out to Hawai`i in hosting additional submarines and the Air Force’s new futuristic F-22A Raptor fighter jet.

Air Force Chief of Staff General T. Michael Moseley announced last week that the preferred alternatives for the third and fourth F-22 bases are Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, and Hickam Air Force Base in Hawai`i.

When the new US$130 million F-22A Raptor fighter jet officially joined the U.S. combat fleet last December, the Air Force was considering basing a squadron on Guam to be within striking distance of China, North Korea and other hotspots in the region.

Andersen Air Force Base on Guam and Hickam Air Force Base in Hawai`i were among the top choices to host a Raptor squadron in the Pacific.

But in testimony presented before the House Armed Services Committee last week, Moseley did not mention Guam as part of the F-22 basing plan this spring, which would take the new fighter out of the continental U.S. for the first time.

The fighters were already certified for operational use at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia last December, with Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska selected as the second site for the F-22s.

The radar-evading Raptor has been described as the most advanced fighter in the world and its deployment on Guam would have meant millions of dollars in revenues in terms of support crew and maintenance equipment deployment.

Earlier, Guam also lost out in the U.S. Navy’s realignment of its submarine fleet.

When the Department of Defense’s quadrennial defense review was released last February, Guam leaders were hopeful that additional submarines would be deployed to Guam because of the report’s recommendation to shift more submarines to the Pacific fleet.

But while the Navy followed the recommendation and announced that it will move six more submarines to the Pacific by 2010, Guam did not benefit from the realignment.

Lieutenant Commander Jeff Davis, a spokesman for Pacific Submarine Forces at Pearl Harbor, said that Guam would remain status quo and would continue to host just three submarines due to infrastructure shortcomings and limited maintenance and repair capabilities.

Bases gaining from the realignment are Hawai`i ’s Pearl Harbor, which would gain one submarine to raise its total to 18; San Diego, which will see its submarine force grow to seven from four; and Bremerton, Washington, which will gain two more subs for a total of three.

However, all is not lost for Guam, as the Air Force has announced that it is pushing through with its plan to deploy up to six Global Hawk spy planes at Anderson Air Force Base by the end of 2009.

This would be the first time that the U.S. military will be stationing the high-tech, high-altitude spy plane in the western Pacific.

To prepare for the Global Hawk deployment, the military plans to begin building facilities such as hangars for the planes as early as this year, according to 36th Air Expeditionary Wing commander Colonel Michael Boera.

March 7, 2006

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment