America makes a big move in the South China Sea (A-10 Warthogs and more)

(From The National Interest)

By Michael Mazza

On Wednesday, a temporary detachment of four US Navy EA-18G Growlers deployed to the Philippines. According to Pacific Command, the aircraft will engage in bilateral training with Philippine Air Force pilots and “will support routine operations that enhance regional maritime domain awareness and assure access to the air and maritime domains in accordance with international law.”

This deployment follows on the heels of a recent US Air Force detachment of five A-10 Warthogs. These temporary air contingents were established in the wake of the Philippine Supreme Court’s final approval of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and the identification of five bases to which US forces would newly gain access.

US A-10 Warthog

US A-10 Warthog

 

At the time, there was some surprise that four of the five bases were air facilities and that none were ports. The first two air contingents to arrive in the Philippines, however, have made clearer how PACOM intends to use those facilities and why air power has thus far been prioritized under the terms of the EDCA.

The Warthogs, typically used for close air support, did not seem to be an obvious choice to deploy to the Philippines. Still, it may have been an inspired choice:

The plane isn’t meant for dogfights with Chinese fighters, but is capable of flying through international airspace near Scarborough Shoal and demonstrating the Pentagon’s commitment to keeping the skies there open to everyone…

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