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Modernized Tacair Critical to Forward Presence: US fifth generation fighters are key to the United States' ability to operate in denied environments to ensure US national interests in the Pacific and those of its allies in the region, said Adm. Samuel Locklear, nominee to lead US Pacific Command. The F-22 and F-35 are "critical to our ability at this point in time to stay forward," he said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his Feb. 9 nomination hearing. "As any other nation or nations pursue anti-access, area-denial capabilities, . . . it's critical that we do a couple of things," said Locklear, when asked about advances in Chinese and Russian fighter technology, such as the J-20. They include understanding what other nations are investing in and building as well as bringing on new capabilities to address those potential threats, he said. "Any slowdown of that forces the combatant commanders to have to take additional risk in their planning as we look forward," said Locklear. He noted that the F-35 will be a "great addition" to the tactical portfolio. (Locklear's responses to advance questions.)