F-35 “Insider” Takes Command of Pacific Air Forces

General Herbert J. "Hawk" Carlisle
General Herbert J. “Hawk” Carlisle

General Herbert J. “Hawk” Carlisle formally accepted command of the United States’ Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) on 3 August in a ceremony presided over by US Navy Admiral Samuel Locklear III, commander of the US Pacific Command, and US Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz. General Carlisle comes to the PACAF with an impressive resume including several assignments in positions of high-visibility within the upper echelons of the USAF hierarchy. Many of his previous assignments brought him into close contact with Congressional leaders, senior air commanders, and political leaders.


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as part of our Premium Content.Selection of General Carlisle to command the PACAF is a clear indication that the Obama administration considers assignment of a senior-level commander with strong ties to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program to be a prudent move that will further strengthen US efforts to convince Asia-Pacific national leaders to select the F-35 as their next-generation fighter.

[ismember]General Carlisle’s most recent assignment as Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Plans, and Requirements at USAF Headquarters in Washington, DC included serving as a key leader in the development and deployment of the F-35 Lightning II. In this position, the General exercised significant influence over the F-35 program and is known to be an unwavering advocate of the JSF, a command assignment that has now linked the General’s reputation to the future success of the F-35 program.

General Carlisle has made frequent public appearances and released numerous statements maintaining his belief that the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II are the aircraft of the future and critical to the United States’ capability of retaining global air superiority. He firmly supports the view that the “F-22 is better than any other aircraft in the world at air-to-ground except for the F-35, and the F-35 is better than any other aircraft in the world at air-to-air except for the F-22.”

With F-35 costs having reached unprecedented levels and a growing cadre of influential JSF critics raising public awareness of opposition to the aircraft, General Carlisle is undoubtedly the best-suited Air Force officer available to promote American aspirations to establish an expanded military presence in the Pacific and to convince the region’s political and military leaders that the F-35 is the answer to their air-defense needs in light of China’s massive military build-up.

General Carlisle is not an entirely new face or unknown personality in the Pacific. He did a tour of duty as commanding general of the Pacific’s 13th Air Force between 2009 and 2010. To PACAF he brings knowledge of the region, close interaction with the region’s foreign leaders, and an intimate understanding of the challenges now facing the sovereign nations of the Pacific.

As commander of the PACAF, General Carlisle will be in an ideal position to travel throughout the Pacific and add a familiar face to US efforts to promote sales of the F-35 and encourage Pacific leaders to ally themselves with the United States and lend support to US plans to develop an effective international force capable of countering Chinese plans of territorial expansion in the South China Sea.

With General Carlisle in the Pacific, the prospects for increased sales of the F-35 are greatly improved and efforts to shore-up foreign support for an increased US military presence in the Pacific are also enhanced. Although the general is limited in his authority to make anything more than cosmetic changes to the internal workings of the PACAF, he is a respected advocate of US aspirations in the Pacific and represents the views of an “insider” in promoting widespread adoption of the F-35. General Carlisle is that added “something extra” the United States needs to make the F-35 an international bestseller and to solidify Washington’s claims that the United States is an Asia-Pacific nation and a determined ally.