In 2017, the United States will begin moving F-22s to northern Australia in an overt show of force to all of Asia. Amid rising tensions in the South China Sea over control of the Spratly Islands, the F-22 presence in the region is a bold statement. Additionally, Admiral Harry Harris, Commander of the US Pacific Command, stated during a visit to Sydney that he would like to see more “freedom-of-navigation” operations by the international community. These operations involve vessels sailing as close as possible to Chinese-claimed territories in an attempt to insure continued safe, unobstructed passage.

The F-22, a fifth-generation stealth fighter, is considered the best in the world. Moving a few of them to Australia in the coming months is sending a strong message that the West isn’t going to allow China to bully its way into ownership of the Spratlys and beyond.

Per the Sydney Morning Herald:

The US will begin flying its deadliest fighter plane, the F-22 Raptor, out of northern Australia next year, the most senior American commander in the Pacific has revealed as he warned  of a need to show strength to deter aggression in the region.

During a visit to Sydney on Wednesday, the commander of the US Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris, vowed the US would remain a major player in the region, saying its “enduring interests” would not “change on January 20th” – referring to the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration as President.

Admiral Harris revealed that he had signed a 2017 agreement for Australia to host US military assets including the Raptors, which are feared and revered as the best fighter planes in the world, and will send a strong signal about US military presence in the region.

“I think that’s positive,” Admiral Harris told the Lowy Institute event.