U.S. Air Force Lt. General Warns Congress That Chinese Air Force’s Offensive Capabilities Are Growing Fast

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force has modernized more quickly than any other large force of its kind over the past 30 years, and from a fleet comprised primarily of obsolete 1950s-era aircraft designs it has today emerged as one of the most modern and capable in the world. 

While the United States and its Western allies predicted an era of unrivaled Western hegemony and military dominance following the end of the Cold War - particularly in the field of aerial warfare capabilities - the growing capability of the PLA Air Force and the possibility that of China’s fleet will gain clear primacy over the coming decade has been viewed with much apprehension by proponents of Western hegemony. 

This concern was reflected by U.S. Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Planning and Programs, Lt. General David Nahom, who warned a U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Navy and Air Force weapons systems divestments on July 21 that the East Asian state’s capabilities in the air were growing rapidly. "The threat is accelerating much more than we thought back in 2018… China's actions show a sense of urgency, a massive buildup of military power, and a willingness to use that power,” he said. 

China notably matched U.S. spending on new arms acquisitions for the first time in 2020, and by 2025 is expected to be spending much more on new hardware than America is able to due to more efficient allocation of the defense budget. 

Among the new assets the country has deployed which could have significant offensive applications are new variants of the H-6 bomber armed for both ship hunting and precision strikes, J-20 heavyweight fifth-generation fighters, J-16 heavyweight multiple fighters, and the PL-15 long-range air to air missile which is considered by many analysts to be the most capable in the world. 

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