For decades, the U.S. military has benefited from having an air superiority fighter advantage over its enemies in all conflicts around the world. The multi-billion dollar investment of the Pentagon in advanced fighters, weapons systems, satellites and carriers has made air power a central part of the global forecast of US military power.
However, China’s PLA is rapidly modernizing, and military leaders and analysts say Washington may no longer be able to rely on air superiority fighters at all times.
At a meeting of the Air Force Association last month, Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Brown Jr. said that the People’s Liberation Army has what is called “the largest aviation force in the Pacific” and “under our nose” Said it was developed. Brown predicted that China could overcome US air superiority fighters by 2035.
At the same event, Deputy Lieutenant S. Clinton Hinote warned that the United States was not keeping up with China’s progress. “In some important areas we are late — tonight. This is not a problem for tomorrow. This is today.”
Hinote told reporters that he believed that China had caught up with the progress of U.S. air power as someone who knew evidence at all classification levels and warned that “the lights were flashing red.” ..
Show its power
Last week, China sent about 150 fighters, including state-of-the-art J-16 fighters and H-6 bombers, to Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in a complex demonstration of its military power.
Eric Heginbotham, Senior Researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology International Research Center, said: “They are putting together a complete package. They are also sending anti-submarine fighter planes, so they are showing a lot.”
According to an article posted on the official US Air Force website, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall mentioned China 27 times in his careful speech at the AFA conference last month. In comparison, he mentioned Russia once and Afghanistan three times. In August, USAF’s top private leader, Kendall, also promised to develop better technology than “frightening China.”
Encouraged by China’s newly acquired air power, PLA Air Force official Wang Wei last month invited the USAF to meet in the air in response to Kendal’s “frightening China” comment. I’m scared. See you in the clouds, unless you’re scared! “
Where the USAF’s dominance may end
China’s flight near Taiwan last week shows the PLA’s improved capabilities. In an email to VOA, Christina Galafora, a quasi-policy researcher at RAND Corporation, combined with air defense forces at China’s ground base, “these capabilities are increasing the complexity of operations in the Indo-Pacific aviation territory. It will increase. ” “”
Timothy Heath, senior defense researcher at the National Institute for Defense Studies, said the PLA Air Force still lags behind the USAF in technology and combat capabilities, but many land fighters intervene in the battle over Taiwan. Said to threaten his efforts. ..
He told VOA that because of its proximity to Taiwan, it could use many complementary weapons, such as surface-to-air missiles and anti-ship ballistic missiles, to attack US aircraft carriers, air bases, and aircraft. “This counter-intervention capability could even help PLA Air Force odds in large-scale combat near Taiwan.”
Analysts also said distance would be a factor in aerial combat in the Pacific. Taiwan is only 161 kilometers from the coast of China, while it is more than 700 kilometers from the US Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan, and more than 2,700 kilometers from Guam.
“The United States may gain Taiwan’s air superiority in the short term, but it’s too far to do this for a short period of time, such as an hour or two,” said Peter Rayton, a visiting scholar at the Griffith Asian Institute in Brisbane. Said. Australia told VOA.
In an interview last month Air Force Times, Kendall said it is an assumption that the United States is the dominant force. “Until we reach within about 1,000 miles (1,610 kilometers) from China, we are the dominant military force, and it begins to change,” he said.
According to Asian security expert Heginbotham of MIT, less than 15% of US aviation inventory is in the Western Pacific, and not all aircraft fly 24 hours a day in the US. “The difference is probably that China can challenge you locally and for a period of time with their advantage,” he said in a telephone interview with VOA.
General Mark Kelly, commander of the Air Combat Command, called China an “enemy of the apex peers” with tremendous ability to manipulate electromagnetic spectrum, and last month the USAF could lose such a battle. Stated. He said China has already claimed “without firing” parts of the South China Sea.
Superiority and superiority
Over the years, some studies have discovered that the United States may be on track to lose its air superiority fighter advantage over China.
In 2015, a study by Heginbotham’s lead author, the California-based RAND Corporation think tank, found that while the United States still maintains unparalleled air-to-air capability, “continuing improvement in China’s air-to-air capability. With this, the United States will achieve air-to-air missiles within a politically and operationally effective time frame, especially in scenarios close to mainland China. “
A 2016 Pentagon survey on the same subject, with the advent of integrated and networked air-to-air and surface-to-air capabilities, “provides air superiority fighters at the time and place needed in a highly competitive operational environment. The ability of the Air Force to do so is threatened. After 2030. “
“The 2016 USAF air superiority fighter study categorically claimed that the United States was on track to lose air superiority fighters in the fight against distant wars,” Leighton told VOA. “USAF has equipment modernization programs that can help address this, such as the B-21 and next-generation air dominance fighters, but these are unlikely to make a real difference until the 2030s. . “
Layton argued in a blog post that the USAF’s thinking about Air Force projections has changed over the years since the Cold War. When Washington regarded itself as the only superpower in the world, the general term was “air superiority.” Currently, if the air threat is manageable at a particular time and place, the goal is “air dominance.”
When will China surpass the United States in military air superiority fighters?
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