Four A-10C Thunderbolt IIs and two HH-60G Pave Hawks, part of American Air Contingent newly established at Air Clark Base in the Philippines, began first air and maritime situational awareness flight mission in the vicinity of Scaborough Shoal on April 19, according to a report by US Pacific Air Forces.
“The A-10s and HH-60s conducted a flying mission through international airspace in the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal west of the Philippines providing air and maritime situational awareness,” US Pacific Air Force said on April 21.
“Our job is to ensure air and sea domains remain open in accordance with international law. That is extremely important, international economics depends on it – free trade depends on our ability to move goods,” said Colonel Larry Card, Commander of the Air Contingent. “There’s no nation right now whose economy does not depend on the well-being of the economy of other nations.”
“Interoperability with the Philippine military is at the forefront of our mission,” Card said. “The standup of the Air Contingent promotes this collective focus as we build upon our already strong alliance, and reaffirm our commitment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.”
According to the US Embassy in Manila the deployed aircraft would conduct operations such as “air and maritime domain awareness, personnel recovery, combating piracy, and helping to assure that all nations have access to air and sea domains throughout the region in accordance with international law.”
Also on April 21, in response to a question regarding the U.S. announcement of joint patrols with the Philippines in the South China Sea, Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh said: “Maintaining peace, stability, security, maritime and aviation safety in the South China Sea is the common interest and responsibility of all countries in the region and beyond. Therefore, efforts by all parties towards this common goal are welcomed”, according to Vietnam’s state media report, translated by South China Sea Research staff.
The original transcript of Binh’s statement, however, has not yet been published on the website of Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry.