The US will send decades-old A-10 attack planes to the Middle East, replacing more advanced aircraft currently stationed in the region, which it instead intends to deploy in Europe and the Pacific, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
The redeployment, which is expected in April, will mean that the US will reserve more sophisticated aircraft to counter perceived threats from Russia and China. The older A-10 planes are considered by the Pentagon as sufficient to protect US interests in the Middle East.
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“The imperative is to get the most suitable aircraft to the Pacific for the higher threat challenges,” the WSJ quoted retired US Air Force major general Larry Stutzriem as saying. The US and some of its allies have expressed concern at possible Chinese military expansionism in the Pacific region.
Washington views China as its “pacing threat,” per National Defense Review documents released by the Pentagon last year – effectively meaning that the US sees the Asian nation as a rival to its “interests and values,” according to US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Russia was described in the same document as an “acute threat.” US and Russian jet fighter aircraft regularly fly over Syria – with the Wall Street Journal citing US officials calling the Russian units “increasingly aggressive.”
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The redeployment scheme is part of a larger US plan to retain a small but significant presence of naval and ground forces in the Middle East, despite its military withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. American troops have maintained links with some Iraqi and Syrian partners in the region as it fends off challenges from Islamic State militants – killing around 700 last year alone, according to US military data.
A-10 attack planes, which are some 40 years old, are not considered to be sufficient to deal with China’s advanced military technology, but retain utility against ground forces or militia groups in the Middle East, the Wall Street Journal reported.