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Overestimating China's Rise
US Boosts Philippine Airlift Capability

The U.S. is giving two C-130 military transport planes to the Philippines, the Diplomat reports:

There is little doubt that this is a much-needed boost for the Philippine military. The C-130s play a critical role in “strategic airlifting,” which is in high demand — especially when the country is ravaged by natural disasters and needs to transport victims, rescue personnel, and supplies, as was the case with Typhoon Hagupit in 2014. But C-130s also have broader applications, including moving and resupplying troops to tackle ongoing insurgencies at home and assisting in humanitarian disaster relief and peacekeeping operations abroad. The Philippine military used to have many more C-130s lying around a few decades ago, but they were mothballed following years of neglect that many now bemoan. As a result, the country’s capacity has long been vastly overstretched and it badly needs more of these planes.

When China starts to take particularly aggressive measures to fulfill its ambitions to become a regional hegemon and world power, its regional opponents tend to band together. None of them individually have the power to thwart the Chinese agenda, but together they are a significant brake on it. China builds a warship; Vietnam builds a warship. China builds another warship; India builds one too. China strengthens its submarine fleet; Taiwan and Japan build more subs and sub-hunting planes (and also sell them to friends and neighbors). When China rattles its chains in the South China Sea, the Indian and Vietnamese militaries cooperate more closely. Australia and Indonesia grow more friendly. And so on.

U.S. backing also remains a key component of this regional counterbalancing of China. The support doesn’t have to be particularly showy all the time; small moves, like giving these planes to the Philippines, count for a lot when added up.

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  • GaiusTrebonius

    The author of this article has absolutely no idea as to what he/she is talking about. First of all, the US is selling, not giving, two used C-130Ts from the US Navy inventory to the Philippines. These are old models well past their prime. In fact, the US just signed a contract with Lockheed Martin to upgrade the Navy’s C-130Ts. Secondly, the C-130T is a tactical airlifter, not a strategic airlifter. Thirdly, The Philippines currently has three very old C-130s in its inventory, only two of which are operational. This is hardly a game changer.

    • Josephbleau

      I agree with your statement except that tactical goals can become strategic goals for a small nation. Having a few more planes that can take 300 kids out of harms way per trip is a desirable capability for a small government. State ANG fighter squadrons were unpopular with Governors who wanted airlift for floods etc.

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