By Jamie Crawford
The U.S. Navy has deployed two of its next-generation reconnaissance aircraft to Japan, a long-planned move that comes amid controversy over Chinese air defenses.
Designed to enhance the Navy's long-range maritime patrol capability, the P-8A Poseidon's specialty is submarine detection, the Navy said. The planes flew from Norfolk, Virginia, to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, in recent days.
The P-8A Poseidon also is part of the Navy's effort to phase out the P-3C Orion. It is more technologically advanced than its predecessor and can fly higher with a crew of up to nine. It also can carry torpedoes, cruise missiles, bombs and mines.
While the Navy rebalances resources in the Pacific, the arrival of the aircraft comes at a time of heightened tension in the region with China's imposition of an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea.
The United States, Japan and South Korea have recently operated their own military flights through the zone to test the Chinese, and the new planes add additional monitoring ability in a busy region.
The Navy said the new deployment was not based on any specific threat.
"The P-8 is a true multi-mission platform, which will continue to provide us invaluable capabilities," said Rear Adm. Matt Carter, commander of patrol and reconnaissance, said in statement.
"The number of submarines in the world is increasing rapidly," Carter also said. "Other countries are either building or purchasing advanced, quiet, and extremely hard to find submarines and we need to be able to match that technology to be able to detect them."
New U.S. aircraft at Kadena coincided with Vice President Joe Biden's arrival in Japan to start a trip that includes stops in China and South Korea.