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Interview with Gen. Herbert J. “Hawk” Carlisle, Commander, Pacific Air Forces

"Our air power is what frightens enemies"

Gen. Herbert J. “Hawk” Carlisle is the senior U.S. airman in the Asia and Pacific region that has been much in the news of late and is deemed vital to U.S. interests. Carlisle has commanded a fighter squadron, fighter group, and a numbered air force. He is a command pilot with much of his time in the F-15C Eagle. Shortly after our interview, aircraft in his command were challenging China’s declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over international waters off the Asian mainland.

 

Robert F. Dorr: How do you see recent developments in Asia and the Pacific?

Gen. Carlisle: A lot is happening. If you look at events, a lot of developments affect our national security and explain our rebalance toward Asia and the Pacific.

Developments in Australia, New Zealand and Japan all highlight the foregone conclusion that this really is the Pacific century for the United States.

China is the number two economy in the world. China is the number one importer of oil. When you look at Korea, you see a reopening of our relationship with Korea. Developments in Australia, New Zealand and Japan all highlight the foregone conclusion that this really is the Pacific century for the United States.

On a daily basis, Pacific nations are faced with numerous obstacles that must be overcome; obstacles such as non-state threats, terrorism and piracy, or devastating natural disasters. The only way to overcome these challenges and advance our common interest of security and stability in the region is by working side-by-side with each other. We train together, exercise together, and when called upon, must be ready to support contingencies together.

Gen. Herbert J. "Hawk" Carlisle

Gen. Herbert J. “Hawk” Carlisle, commander, Pacific Air Forces, briefs Japanese Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera and a contingent of officials July 2, 2013, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. As part of the visit, the capabilities of the F-22 and fifth-generation aircraft were highlighted. Japan’s own planned purchase of the F-35 will further increase capabilities of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and increase the already strong interoperability between the JASDF and U.S. Air Force in defense of Japan and the Asia-Pacific region. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathan Allen

Our ability to act in this region of the world and our need to be here is obvious to me. I don’t know if most Americans realize how much happens in the Asia Pacific region. The fact that we are here and we have to be here for the security and prosperity of the United States is obvious. The size of the region and the amount of water, are factors – 16 time zones, 32 countries. Air power has the unique attributes of speed, range and flexibility that we need in this part of the world.

 

Everybody in Washington is thinking about budget issues.

At a time when our economy needs to be bolstered and we need to get our debt under control, we need to get closer to our allies and resist the tendency to look inward and withdraw to the United States. This is exactly the time when we need to be engaged more with our friends and partners.

I have three tenets that have priority – expand engagement, improve combat capability, and increase warfighter integration.

I have three tenets that have priority – expand engagement, improve combat capability, and increase warfighter integration.

• Expand engagement: I’d like more rotations. We’re not going to build more bases so we need to make effective use of what we have. You don’t have to be there permanently to rotate in there with your friends and allies. We should bring in forces and expand relations with our five treaty allies in this part of the world.

Pacific Air Forces

Aircraft from the Air Force, Navy, Japan Air Self-Defense Force, and Royal Australian Air Force fly in formation Feb. 5, 2013, over the Pacific Ocean in support of Exercise Cope North 2013 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. During this event, the aviators trained on war-fighting integration tactics. Cope North is a multilateral aerial and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise, held annually, designed to increase the combat readiness and interoperability of the U.S. military, JASDF and RAAF. U.S. Air Force photo

Cope North is a great example of this. [This exercise] started in 1978 with Japan and is a great training event for us and our partners. Working and training with the Japanese Air Self Defense Force and the Royal Australian Air Force makes Cope North one of the best exercises for getting the most benefit for the investment we put into it. It is actually one of our premier training exercises in the Pacific. It has evolved quite a bit and now includes humanitarian aid and disaster relief scenarios, which is obviously a very important scenario to practice here in the Pacific.

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Robert F. Dorr is an author, U.S. Air Force veteran, and retired American diplomat who...