The deployment of the latest U.S. military hardware should serve as a symbol of American commitment to its allies in the Pacific region, an admiral said.
There is an air of uncertainty over whether a new Trump presidency will continue to honor the current American strategy to pivot its military forces to the Pacific region.
While he wouldn’t speculate on likely policies of a Trump administration, Navy Adm. Harry Harris said, “I have no doubt that we will continue our steadfast commitment to our allies and partners in the Indo-Asian-Pacific region.”
Speaking in Washington, D.C., at a leadership discussion sponsored by Defense One, Harris pointed to the future deployment of the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter to Japan as sign of that commitment.
The F-35 family is “the most capable aircraft that we have,” Harris said. “I think it is a powerful signal that we are sending our very best fighter aircraft to the Indo-Asian-Pacific before we deploy it anywhere else.
“It will showcase not only American technology but also American capability. There is no other aircraft on the planet that can touch it,” he said. “I am a huge believer in it.”
Harris continued, “Everything that is new and cool that the U.S. Military is producing is coming out to the region.”
In addition to the F-35B, the U.S. is building three Zumwalt-Class destroyers and all three will be sent to the Pacific, he said.
The P-8A Poseidon long-range maritime patrol aircraft and Virginia-Class submarines will also operate in the region, Harris said.
“So I think that is an indicator and a validator if you will that the region matters to the United States,” he said.
Despite being plagued by a multitude of problems lately, Harris also said he thought the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, or LCS, program will also prove an asset to the region.
“I have faith in the program,” Harris said. “It has had problems … I believe that we can do a lot more with the LCS platform than we have at present.”
Harris talked about the days he served as a tactical action officer on the USS Saratoga supercarrier during the height of the Cold War in the mid-1980s.
He worried about the Soviet ocean patrol boats then. “These are relatively tiny ships, but we had to track every one of them and know where they were throughout the Mediterranean,” he said, describing how they were armed with Soviet Styx anti-ship missiles.
“They were threat well beyond their size … and I want the LCS to be viewed by our adversaries in the region in the same way I viewed” these lethal vessels, he said.
Harris said of the missile systems that are being developed to put on the ship, “I think they will be terrific and that will give a real punch to what LCS brings to the fight.”