The US, British and Australian armed forces conducted a joint air combat exercise on Wednesday (February 8, 2023) at Nellis Air Force Base in the western state of Nevada, simulating a high-profile air combat after China launched a war of aggression. This is part of the “Red Flag” series of high-end air combat exercises regularly hosted by the US Air Force.
In September 2021, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia agreed on a trilateral security agreement called “AUKUS”. Respond to China’s expansion of its sphere of influence in the Indo-Pacific region by relying on its increasingly powerful naval power.
U.S. Air Force Colonel Hutchinson, commander of the “Red Flag” series of high-end air combat exercises, said the air combat exercise was not directly related to the recent incidents, but said, “China is the looming challenge we face. We train to be ready. We think if we’re ready for China, we’re ready for everyone.”
A British Royal Air Force commander who took part in the joint air combat exercise said this high-end air combat exercise simulated the deployment of the three countries’ air forces in an “area occupied by an enemy country” and focused on training and improving the ability of the three air forces to coordinate operations.
The commander did not mention China or specify where the attacked areas were located.
The U.S. government has made responding to China’s military challenges a top strategic priority for the U.S. military. The National Defense Authorization Act also previously required the Department of Defense to include Taiwan’s defense in the “Red Flag” series of high-end air combat exercises.
The Nellis Air Force Base is one of the most important training bases of the U.S. Air Force and is considered the “Home of Fighter Pilots”.
In 2011, Chen Bingde, Chief of the PLA General Staff, visited the sensitive military facility as part of the US-China military exchange. Then-Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a public statement criticizing the Pentagon for allowing Chinese military officials to visit sensitive U.S. military facilities, particularly Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. She said at the time that the Chinese military openly views the United States as an enemy. The United States should not believe that it can turn an enemy into a friend with enthusiasm and kindness, thereby harming the security interests of the United States.
Military exchanges between the two countries have been suspended for years as U.S.-China relations have deteriorated, fueling fears of a future military conflict between the two superpowers.
Gen. Michael Minihan, commander of the U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command, predicted in a memo that the U.S. and China would go to war in two years, according to a recent document.
“I hope I’m wrong. But my gut instinct tells me we’re going to war in 2025,” he said.