China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) will be able to match or exceed the United States Air Force in the number of fielded combat aircraft by 2030. Moreover, while American forces will still maintain an edge, the technological gap between the two great powers will have closed significantly between now and then.Let me say again. Russia is not the threat. China is who we should be focused on!
Right now, the PLAAF is slightly larger in terms of personnel, however the U.S. Air Force has a “couple thousand more aircraft,” Gen. Mark Welsh, Air Force chief-of-staff, told the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on defense on March 2. “At the rate they’re building, the models they’re fielding, by 2030 they will have fielded—they will have made up that 2,000 aircraft gap and they will be at least as big—if not bigger—than our air forces.”
But it’s not just sheer numbers, the PLAAF is rapidly fielding newer and much more capable aircraft. Some of those are completely new warplanes like the stealthy Chengdu J-20 and Shenyang J-31, while at least three more are upgraded versions of existing fighters like the J-11D and J-16 among others. Moreover, China continues to import advanced Russian-made fighters including the fearsome Sukhoi Su-35S Flanker-E.
The USAF is the first out of the gate with this assessment but the real concern is that they will accomplish technical equality with us across the spectrum (meaning on land, air and sea)...in many ways BEFORE 2030! Quite honestly if you consider all aspects of national power and think about the trajectory of our two countries then you could credibly claim that by early to mid 2020s they will achieve superiority.
How and why?
It goes back to the most underreported defense story of the past few years. Current military leadership is writing checks and making plans that their replacements will have to cash/implement. I've written about the procurement trainwreck but that problem has morphed into what's been called a defense procurement "bow wave" that will hit the good ship DoD in, you guessed it, 2020!