Adm. John Aquilino, the commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said on Aug. 4 that the buying of U.S. military equipment by allies and partners in the region will improve U.S. interoperability with those nations to deter and counter China under the more than $27 billion planned Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI).
“The best way to be interoperable is to operate with U.S. equipment, and that’s aside from the fact that it’s the finest on the planet,” Davidson told the 2021 Aspen Security Forum, sponsored by the Aspen Institute. “We are able to come together on short notice with our allies and partners across the region. We are able to communicate quickly, operate at the high end, and that is all based on interoperability. No matter the funding stream, we continue to advocate for our allies and partners to purchase and utilize U.S. equipment. We see it successful across the region.”
Aquilino cited the example of the Boeing [BA] P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and maritime surveillance aircraft, operated in the region by the U.S. Navy, the Indian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force and on order with the Royal New Zealand Air Force and the Republic of Korea Navy.
“We can instantaneously come together, share information, share data and be effective in the region [with the P-8A],” Aquilino said. “And that applies throughout, whether it be U.S. Army equipment, Air Force equipment, Navy equipment, Marine Corps equipment, Coast Guard equipment. It’s just the best way to ensure interoperability and make our nations most effective in the military dimension.”
U.S. Indo-Pacific Command is seeking more than $27 billion to fund PDI between fiscal years 2022 and 2027 with a focus on acquiring a new air defense system for Guam, long-range precision-strike weapons, and $2.2 billion for Space-Based Persistent Radars (Defense Daily, March 2).
While Aquilino’s predecessor as INDOPACOM commander, Adm. Philip Davidson, had said in March that “Beijing could likely choose to forcibly change the status quo in the region” by 2026, Aquilino said on Aug. 4 that he does not have “a crystal ball” and that he was focused on the continued deterrence of China.
In response to a question on past wargames in which the U.S. lost to China due to the disabling of U.S. spy and communications satellites, attacks on Navy aircraft carriers and U.S. bases on Guam and in Japan, and the inability of Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-35s to reach their targets due to refueling problems, Aquilino said that the U.S. has learned from such wargames.
“Our intent is to challenge ourselves against the absolute, most difficult problem, and this is the way it’s been for hundreds of years, and it’s resulted in the military we have today–the most powerful military on the planet,” Aquilino said. Such wargames against China were cited in The Kill Chain: Defending America in the Future of High-Tech Warfare–a 2020 book by Christian Brose, a former aide for the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee between 2014 and 2018.
“Chris and I have had some conversations,” Aquilino said. “I think we’ll continue to do that, and I’ll just tell you that data is probably dated now, as we have executed a few most recently, but those games have helped us to identify where we have gaps and seams, how we make requests for capabilities and requirements to ensure that our competitive advantage is maintained, that we’re not fighting the last war, that we look at everything in the most difficult manner possible, and for the U.S. military to continue to improve.”