CHINA will “keep pushing the envelope”, particularly in the South China Sea region, as it prepares to unveil its first stealth fighter before the end of the year, and is also developing long-range bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons, a top US Air Force commander has warned.
And General Charles Brown, the head of Pacific Air Forces, admitted the region would see a military escalation in the years to come as the US seeks to keep pace with the emerging superpower. Mr Brown said the J-20 fighter could “possibly” be operational this year, indicating “greater threat, greater capability” for China in the Pacific. The US would seek to counter Beijing’s build-up with increased deployment of next-generation F-35 jets and continuing overflights of strategic areas such as the South China Sea, he acknowledged.
He told Bloomberg: “My sense of the way the Chinese operate is somewhat incremental.
“They’ll continue to push the envelop to figure out does anybody say or do anything – if you don’t push back it’ll keep coming.”
China already has the world’s third largest air force, with more than 2,500 total aircraft including 1,700 combat fighters, strategic bombers, tactical bombers and multi-mission tactical and attack aircraft, the US Defense Intelligence Agency said in a report earlier this year.
China’s J-20 fighter is part of a modernisation effort that’s been “closing the gap with Western air forces across a broad spectrum of capabilities, such as aircraft performance, command and control and electronic warfare,” the report said.