Allied Modernization in Asia

Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said his meeting earlier this month with South Korean air force chief Gen. Sung Il Hwan went very well. “They value the strong partnership between us, and want it to grow and continue,” Welsh told the Daily Report in an interview this week during a stop on his Asia-Pacific tour. This includes the South Koreans modernizing their forces for better interoperability with the United States, he said. Asked about the status of the South Koreans’ F-X fighter modernization program, Welsh said it is his understanding there’s been no official decision yet. Press reports have claimed that Boeing’s F-15 Silent Eagle is the last candidate standing. Next door in Japan: the Japan Air Self-Defense Force is “strongly committed” to bringing the F-35 into its fleet, but is also balancing resourcing and modernization concerns, said Welsh after his meetings with JASDF and Japanese defense ministry officials. The Japanese have indicated they want to expand their intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities with the RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft, for example, noted Welsh. “In all my discussions, I was struck by how similar their challenges are to our own,” he said.