The United States, Britain, and Australia conducted combined air drills on Wednesday over the Nevada desert and elsewhere, in an effort to replicate high-end combat operations against Chinese fighter aircraft and air defenses.
According to British news agency Reuters, British troops practiced during the three-week-long Red Flag drills that the United States was hosting onboard the British KC-2 Voyager refueling tanker aircraft, which on Wednesday provided fuel for both American and British fighter jets.
Red Flag’s commander, Colonel Jared J. Hutchinson of the US Air Force, stated the annual exercises were unrelated to any current affairs. Tensions increased on Saturday when a US fighter jet downed a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon off the coast of South Carolina.
“China is just the pacing challenge that we train for so that we’re ready … We think that if we’re ready for China, we’re ready for anybody,” Hutchinson stated, citing American strategy.
The drills were primarily focused on tackling the huge distances that the United States, Britain, and Australia would face when operating across the Pacific and enhancing air force interoperability between the three nations.
That requires the crew of the Royal Air Force’s Voyager to act as a sort of aerial gas station by delivering air-to-air refueling for fighter aircraft engaged in the fictitious mission.
The mission during the Red Flag drills would simulate deploying the air forces into “a region where there has been an invasion by a hostile country,” Air Commodore John Lyle, commander of the RAF’s Air Mobility Force, told Reuters.
Without taking China’s name or divulging what area had been taken hold of, Lyle said, “So our role will be to support the force to effectively proceed into the area that’s been occupied and to undertake targeting of key assets to allow us to degrade the enemy’s capabilities.”
The pressure China has put on Taiwan, a self-governing island that the Asian giant views as a renegade province, has caused the US to express rising alarm in recent years.
In addition to the tanker planes, Britain participated in the exercises by flying Eurofighter Typhoon fighter Jets. According to information provided by Red Flag organizers, Australia provided EA-18G Growler aircraft.
Even while it spends billions of dollars aiding Ukraine in fending off invading Russian forces, the US leadership has designated China as the military’s top strategic priority.
William Burns, director of the US Central Information Agency, warned that the United States was aware “as a matter of intelligence” that Xi had instructed his forces to be prepared to invade Taiwan by 2027.
In an event at Georgetown University in Washington, Burns said, “Now, that does not mean that he’s decided to conduct an invasion in 2027, or any other year, but it’s a reminder of the seriousness of his focus and his ambition.”