• RAAF bases in Australia.

RAAF bases in Australia. (Photo : RAAF)

The U.S. Air Force will begin flying long-range patrols of its Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor stealth air superiority jet fighters over the South China Sea from bases of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in northern Australia beginning 2017.

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The revelation adds more pressure on China to abide by international norms and to relinquish its claim to own the South China Sea. The patrols will also be conducted to show American strength and deter Chinese aggression in Asia, said U.S. Navy Admiral Harry Harris, Jr., Commander, United States Pacific Command (CDRUSPACOM), based in Hawaii.

Admiral Harris pledged the U.S. will remain a major player in Asia, saying its "enduring interests" won't "change on January 20th" -- referring to the day Donald Trump becomes U.S. President.

He said he signed an agreement for Australia to host U.S. military forces -- including the Raptors, which are regarded as the best fighter planes in the world. The Raptors will send a powerful signal to China about the U.S.' military presence in Asia.

"I think that's positive," said Admiral Harris.

He emphasized there was "no room for subtlety" in convincing potential aggressors like China their actions will be deterred. He said the U.S. maintaining a "credible combat power" was vital, along with having the resolve to use it and signaling that resolve.

"I'll be blunt in saying that the global operating system that created the Indo-Asia-Pacific economic miracle is coming under pressure from revisionist powers," he said in a veiled reference to both China and Russia.

Admiral Harris said he would like to see other countries such as Australia carry out freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea to challenge China's island-building and claim to own this body of water.

"Should others signal in this way in freedom-of-navigation operations? I think so, but it's up to each individual country to make that decision."

He also said the U.S. and Australia were "exploring greater integration of fifth-generation fighter deployments to Australia."

While the F-22 and its "cousin," the Northrop Grumman F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, are both stealth aircraft, the F-22 was designed unequivocally as an air-to-air fighter. The F-35 can combat other aircraft but can also attack ground targets, something the F-22 isn't designed for.

The F-22 is regarded as superior in air-to-air combat to the newer F-35 despite having original technologies developed a decade ago.

In simulated dogfights, the F-22 accumulated unbelievable kill ratios against legacy fourth generation fighters such as the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet and the Boeing F-15 Eagle.

Simulated combat exercises in June 2006 saw 12 F-22s of the 94th Fighter Squadron shooting down 108 adversaries with no losses. An exercise in 2008 saw Raptors shoot down 221 "enemy" aircraft for no losses.

Northern Australia is an ideal staging area for the Raptors because it's mostly out of range of China's ballistic missiles and is the location for a number of large RAAF airbases that can accommodate the F-22.

Among these airbases are RAAF Base Curtin, RAAF Base Darwin and RAAF Base Tindal.