At least eight F-22 Raptors arrived at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Wednesday for what defense officials say is a routine exercise for theater security operations.
But that's not all: the fighter jets are part of a contingent headed to the base. Yokota in total will see "an influx of more than 20 fighter aircraft, F-22s and F-16s," in coming days, U.S. Forces Japan spokesman Lt. Col. Kenneth Hoffman told Air Force Times.
"These deployments enhance our ability to fulfill our treaty obligations to defend Japan and promote stability throughout the region," Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, director of defense press operations at the Pentagon, said in a statement.
"This training is not in response to or in anticipation of any regional concerns," Hoffman added.
Officials would not confirm the exact number of each aircraft; the number of airmen associated with each rotating squadron was also unknown.
Media reports Thursday said the F-22 fighters belong to the 525th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; the F-16s en route to the Asia-Pacific region hail from the 18th Aggressor Squadron, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.
The arrival of the aircraft comes weeks after North Korea's highly-contested claim that the country tested a hydrogen bomb. Senior diplomats from the U.S., Japan and South Korea concurred in a meeting in Tokyo Jan. 16 the need for a strong response in the U.N. Security Council to North Korea's recent nuclear test, fearing that a "failure to send a clear message would risk further provocations by Pyongyang."
Defense Secretary Ash Carter in a phone call with Republic of Korea Minister of National Defense Han Min-koo on Jan. 6 echoed similar sentiments saying North Korea's actions were a "flagrant violation of international law" and both sides pledged to "coordinate appropriate alliance responses to these provocations."
Carter urged the importance of close coordination with the international community and regional partners in condemning North Korea's actions.
And other drills continue:
Nearby in Guam, two U.S. Navy destroyers are conducting war-game exercises with about half a dozen Japanese ships, officials said.
Twelve F-16 fighter jets are set for a mid-January deployment to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for similar security operations.
In February, the United States and five allied nations will participate in exercise Cope North at Andersen.
The three-week-long exercise is "designed to enhance multilateral air operations of the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Air Force," according to a release.
South Korea, the Philippines and New Zealand will also participate this year.
The exercise will include more than 930 U.S. airmen and sailors, and more than 900 allied service members. Additionally, more than 100 aircraft, comprised of 23 flying units from the U.S. and Indo-Asia-Pacific region, will participate, the release said.
Oriana Pawlyk covers deployments, cyber, Guard/Reserve, uniforms, physical training, crime and operations in the Middle East, Europe and Pacific for Air Force Times. She was the Early Bird Brief editor in 2015. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.