US moving advanced aircraft to Asia, Europe from Middle East

The United States plans to deploy ageing A-10 attack planes to the Middle East as a replacement for more advanced combat aircraft that will be shifted to the Pacific and Europe as tensions with China and Russia intensify, a news report says.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday the move, scheduled for April, is part of a broader plan that also calls for retaining modest naval and ground forces in the Middle East region, according to American officials.Pentagon spokesman Brigadier-General Patrick Ryder told the Journal the “global force management process is dynamic, and the secretary of defence makes decisions based on threats to our forces and our national security interests”. Ryder declined to discuss the specifics of the move.

The news report said some US officials have criticised the plan to switch out the advanced fighter aircraft for the older A-10 jets, saying it could weaken American military power in the Middle East. The air force’s A-10 close air support attack plane is known as “the tank killer”.

“The imperative is to get the most suitable aircraft to the Pacific for the higher threat challenges,” Larry Stutzriem, a retired Air Force major general, was quoted as saying. “The A-10 is still relevant to the mission CENTCOM flies over the Middle East.”

The US government has been strengthening an arc of military alliances in the Asia Pacific to better counter China, including in any future confrontation over Taiwan.

The Journal report comes after a visit by China’s President Xi Jinping to Moscow to meet Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The two called for “responsible dialogue” to resolve the Ukraine crisis with Xi acknowledging Beijing and Moscow had signed an agreement bringing ties into a “new era” of cooperation.

“Right now there are changes – the likes of which we haven’t seen for 100 years – and we are the ones driving these changes together,” Xi told Putin. The Russian president responded: “I agree.”

China’s military said on Thursday it had monitored and driven away a US destroyer that illegally entered waters around the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

The US navy disputed the Chinese claim saying the warship is conducting “routine operations” in the South China Sea and was not expelled.

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