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Beyond Tanker Adaptive Basing: Alternative Options to Improve United States Indo Pacific Commands Air Refueling ReadinessPosture and Extend Operational Reach


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The 2019 Indo-Pacific Strategy Report concedes that China would enjoy a military advantage at the outset of conflict if it chose to employ force in pursuit of territorial interests along its periphery in the South China Sea. To counter this threat, United States Indo-Pacific Command seeks to posture combat-credible forces forward, compelling China to advance its interests through benign means subject to internationally recognized rules. This strategy relies upon newly developed operational concepts to mitigate Chinas anti-access, area denial threats. One such operational concept, the adaptive basing of air forces, is designed to decrease vulnerability, complicate Chinese targeting efforts, enhance operational maneuver, and enable combat persistence while under threat of attack through the agile disaggregation of aircraft and support resources. However, an objective analysis demonstrates that, due to logistical and operational limitations, adaptive basing is incompatible with the Air Forces current air refueling fleet. This analysis argues that United States IndoPacific Command would realize a more capable tanker readiness posture and ensure more comprehensive operational reach by pursuing two alternatives to tanker adaptive basing. First, by seeking an increase in the number of tanker squadrons assigned in future Global Force Management Allocation Plans. Second, by seeking new tanker basing agreements with regional partners throughout South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Oceana.



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