12 June 2017

News Story: Pentagon - China Is 'Closing the Gap' in Air Power with U.S.

Chengdu J-20 "Stealth" Fighter
by Bill Carey

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) is “closing the gap rapidly” with Western air forces across a broad spectrum of capabilities, states the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on China’s military, released on June 6. “This development is gradually eroding the significant technical advantage held by the United States,” the report adds.

Last year, China announced a 7 percent increase in military spending, to $144.3 billion, sustaining its position as the second largest military spender after the U.S. (The Pentagon requested $582 billion for the current fiscal year.) Between 2007 and 2016, China’s military budget grew an average of 8.5 percent per year on an inflation-adjusted basis, according to the report.

China’s aircraft industry still relies on foreign-sourced components for high-performance aircraft engines, but its expertise in building both commercial and military aircraft has improved with work on the C919 commercial airliner and Xian Y-20 military transport, the Pentagon said.

Shenyang J-31/FC-31 Gryfalcon "Stealth" Fighter
The PLAAF fields Asia’s largest air force, with more than 2,700 total manned aircraft, including 2,100 combat aircraft. Of the latter, China operates approximately 600 fourth-generation fighters, including Russian-built Su-27/Su-30, Chinese/Russian J-11A and indigenous Chengdu J-10 and Shenyang J-11B fighters.

China is developing the fifth-generation Chengdu J-20 and carrier-capable Shenyang FC-31 Gryfalcon fighters, which could enter service as early as next year, the Pentagon states.

Read the full story at AINonline