The head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command wants Pacific allies to buy more American weapons.

Adm. John Aquilino said he hopes regional countries that plan to work with the U.S. will equip their forces with American weapons and equipment.

“The best way to be interoperable is to operate with U.S. equipment, and that’s aside from the fact that it’s the finest on the planet,” Aquilino said Wednesday during remarks at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.

Indo-Pacific Command Change of Command Ceremony, Admiral John Aquilino.
U.S. Indo-Pacific Command chief Adm. John Aquilino wants Pacific nations to buy American when shopping for weapons. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

He made that case while discussing the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, a military program aimed at matching China’s military ambitions.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command is requesting $27 billion from Congress to fund the initiative from 2022 to 2027. The military’s wish list includes missile defense systems in Guam and Palau, a series of surveillance systems and satellites and other programs.

In last year’s National Defense Authorization Act, Congress also called for the creation of a new multinational “Movement Coordination Center Pacific” that would coordinate the movement of friendly nations’ military aircraft and vessels across the region.

A U.S. Marine F-35 squadron is currently serving aboard the British Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier the HMS Queen Elizabeth alongside British planes as they sail though the South China Sea as part of the ship’s first voyage to the Pacific. 

Japan also has looked at increasing the ability of American and Japanese F-35s to work with each other’s carriers at sea.

The U.S. also recently gifted the Vietnamese Coast Guard with an American vessel that stopped in Hawaii on its way to its new duties in the South China Sea.

“We are able to come together on short notice with our allies and partners across the region. We are able to communicate quickly, operate at the high end, and that is all based on interoperability,” said Aquilino. “No matter the funding stream, we continue to advocate for our allies and partners to purchase and utilize U.S. equipment.”

But some military analysts have raised concerns that the increasing integration of systems and reliance on high tech weapons could be making both the U.S. and regional allies more vulnerable to spying and cyberattacks.

In several military simulations in recent years the Americans lost to Chinese forces after U.S. spy and communications satellites were disabled, along with other setbacks. F-35s, which are high-tech but riddled with bugs and maintenance problems, failed to even reach their targets in some simulations.

In response to questions about those concerns from forum attendees, Aquilino said that the U.S. has learned from those simulations and is working to address vulnerabilities. 

“Our intent is to challenge ourselves against the absolute, most difficult problem, and this is the way it’s been for hundreds of years,” Aquilino said. “And it’s resulted in the military we have today – the most powerful military on the planet.”

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