China On Pace to Challenge U.S. Airpower Edge: General

China1NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — As China continues to enhance its military’s technology and equipment, the U.S. Air Forces Pacific Command needs to be able to respond – even if it’s not against China, the commander of PacAF said Wednesday.

“We may not necessarily fight China, we will fight their stuff,” Gen. Herbert Carlisle said during a presentation at the Air Force Association’s annual conference here.

Carlisle, who took over the Pacific theater command just over a year ago, said enemies and potential enemies have seen what American airpower can do “and their objective in many cases is to keep us as far as away as they possibly can.”

Carlisle was not alone in raising the specter of an emerging and growing China as a key challenge to the U.S.

On Tuesday, Gen. Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command, told reporters that China is forging ahead with fifth generation fighters that will challenge American airpower in the region in about five years unless the U.S. is able to field the F-35 Lightning II as scheduled.

The Air Force is slated to buy 1,763 F-35s — barring budget cuts that reduce the number. The plane was already behind schedule before the economy crashed in 2008 and began taking a toll on the Defense Department.

“If we keep slowing the ramp, we’ll never get to 1,763 because I’ll be ‘bone yarding’ the first ones before I get the last ones. It’s critical we get to that number,” Hostage said.

PacAF spelled out a year ago its need for the F-35, emphasizing in its annual strategic plan that it remained a priority for the theater.

“New threats and investment needs are not theoretical possibilities for the future; they are here now,” the plan stated.

Carlisle on Wednesday called China “the pacing threat” because it’s the most capable in the region. He also noted that Russia is developing more sophisticated capabilities and exporting them to other countries.

“These advance capabilities will be ubiquitous throughout the world just because they go to the highest bidder,” he said.

They’re using electronic attack systems able to operate in a spectrum that can wreak havoc on GPS and radar systems, Carlisle said. Potential adversaries wanting to keep the U.S. at a distance look to do that with advanced surface-to-air missiles land and anti-ship missiles.

Integrated air and missile defense will be one of the biggest challenges, he said, requiring continued capability in strike ops, active defense – including Patriot missiles, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missiles – and passive defense capabilities such as flexible basing of launch and fuel assets, concealment and camouflage, and agile command and control capability.

The military’s emphasis on the Pacific region – dubbed the Pacific Pivot – is a response to the U.S. determination that national security strategy requires a more robust presence.

“This administration has said that by necessity we will refocus and rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region just because of [its] importance,” he said. “Thirty-six countries [and] 55 percent of gross domestic product of the world is in this region, and clearly the health and security and stability of the Asian-Pacific region is key to not only our country, but pretty much every country in the world.”

About the Author

Bryant Jordan
Bryant Jordan is a reporter for He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @BryantJordan.
  • blight_

    “Thirty-six countries [and] 55 percent of gross domestic product of the world is in this region”

    Why yes, a good fraction of that 55% used to be American, but now it’s…you know whos.


      Its coming back though.

      Slowly but surely…..

    • NaVet

      I’m a little confused by these numbers. Since the US has aprox. 21% of the world GDP and the EU contries 22% I am somewhat sceptical that almost all of the remaining world GDP can be concentrated where you say it is. Could you clarify this please?

    • Atomic Walrus

      You realize that US GDP continues to grow, right? It’s not like those countries have actually cut US GDP with their growth. If, on the other hand, you’re fixated on trying to maintain the relative strength of the US compared with the rest of the world compared with its post-WW2 high – well, you’re just going to have to get over that.

    • jack cox

      free trade-globalization, imposed on us by the feral reserve presidential puppets so the trading clan can resurrect nobility in a world of servants, slaves, and hirelings, that is were our manufacturing infrastructure has been sent by the predator NYSE and political arena, who see common america like their herd of cattle

  • Bernard

    The F35 is not going to help American air power against foreign aircraft. The F35 is ill suited to AA missions. Furthermore Chinese technology is far off, this is just another boogeyman that doesn’t exist. We don’t need the Cold War hype all over again.

    • BajaWarrior

      Says who?

    • jackiecox

      words are cheap

    • theazcowboy

      The F-35 JSF will (((quitely))) disappear as more and more problems arise + its inadaqute engine that needs to be replaced and a Pentagon that has refused to spend the money on this (back-to-back = F-22) LEMON!

      FYI: China’s F-10, F31 and F-35 (No, not the USAF’s JSF) 5th generation fighters (last 2) has the Pentagon worried as their performance has been superior.

    • China has stealth fighters in development, they have the equivalent of the Aegis weapons system, they have very quiet SSN’s and SSBN’s. If anyone thinks their military is still stuck in the 60’s you need to get your head out of the sand, and do it damn quick.

      • radiogaga

        Very quiet SSN’s and SSBN’s? Are you sure?

  • Lance

    Bernard nailed it. The JSF is not meant to be our “Super fighter” of the 21st century the ill fated F-22 was that and now production is way over!!!!!! They wanted to upgrade F-15s now they want to ditch both planes to save this billion dollar boondoggle.

    I dont trust Pentagon generals anymore they have so much kickbacks with money and trips and have there pet project. Heck, they say Egypt would be a mortal threat to the US is they could get there money maker projects safe from cuts. I let the CIA and DIA worry about ten years down the road over China Russia and who ever else the defense industry wants to make a bogyman to give them money we cant afford to pay any more.

    China owns us financially they wouldn’t want to attack there money client who pumps there economy up.


      Yeah, true. Also, there is the US Pacific Fleet. Does that, like, not count or something?

    • valbonne

      China invested over US$3Trillion in US Government Bonds and other Money Instruments. Which country will go to war with such a business partner? US Military still have Cold-War mentality with Russia & China.

      • majr0d

        Yep. it’s the US’ cold war mentality causing Russia and China to block even a strong condemnation of Syria’s use of chemical weapons against civilians.

        • blight_

          Why even Cold War mentality? I’m sure they’re just trying to save Syria from the New Axis Of Evil regime change list.

  • China on par due to intelligence, tech thefts alone to = US in airpower
    Seen many plane pics on Facebook of adv Chinese types= to F22 etc.

  • hibeam

    We sent them all of our jobs, both high tech and low tech. Then we let them flood our markets without reciprocal access to their markets? And now this? Big fat friggin surprise. Who could have possibly foreseen this day coming?

    • Rest Pal

      It’s the US government that has been denying US companies access to the Chinese market. Most of China’s orders for products made by US companies have failed to go through the approval process in Congress because of various restrictions. China doesn’t need most of what US companies make. The stuff China does need and want to buy are mostly expensive high-tech equipments. US companies could have been making a lot of money but radicals in Congress refuse to review or revise trade restrictions involving high tech products.

      China has been more open than even Japan when it comes to market access.

    • PolicyWonk

      Actually, Patrick Buchanan most certainly did. During 2001-2008, he wrote numerous editorials decrying the virtual give-away of tens of thousands of dual-use technologies, hard-won manufacturing techniques, millions of American jobs and the resulting tax base – in return for short-term profits for American companies.

      According to Buchanan, the 8.2 million new folks added to welfare, unemployment and food stamps, were due to the previous administrations give-away of technologies in return for access to Chinese markets. He warned that the Chinese would use this immense influx of new technologies to rapidly bolster their defense spending, catch-up quickly w/r/t weapons system design, and would start throwing their weight around diplomatically.

      All of those predictions, lamentably, came true. As Buchanan put it, the Chinese acquired more technology from the US in less than 8 years than the Soviets did in 60 years of cold war.

  • John

    Here’s an idea. Let the countries near China start spending for their own defense!

    • jackiecox

      It requires decades of engineering design, and longer to develop manufacturing processes related to defense equipment, its not like building a model airplane from balse wood

    • radiogaga

      John, you don’t seem to know a thing about countries near China. Mongolia might be well on its way to re-join China and become an autonomous province. N.Korea is a long time ally and friend of China. Laos and Cambodia have already become a part of Greater China’s economy. Singapore is 80% Chinese. Malaysia is about 20% Chinese and closely linked to China in trade. Even Vietnam, which has fought a border war with China in 1979, is rapidly integrating into the Chinese economy. Indonesia has a Chinese minority that controls well over 50% of the country’s economy; same for the Philippines. Pakistan is China’s staunchest ally. India has a border dispute with China but its trade with China far exceeds its trade with the US. Iran has friendly relations with China, so do Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan. Russia has been among the largest energy, technology and weapons providers to China. Taiwan is practically 100% Chinese and the majority of people identify with mainland China far more than it does the US.

      You really need to read and learn more before you speak or post.

  • now2node

    Reply to John

    Japan and S Korea already spend A LOT. S Korea pays for a BIG portion of operating cost of USFK. The cost sharing has been in place for decades.

    The other Asian nations cannot afford to spend as much, because they are not that rich.

  • Jpoint

    The claim that trading partners do not go to war due to economic concerns has been repeatedly proven false historically, yet it seems to be one of those items of “knowledge” that gets repeated enough that people believe it. The US and Japan were very large trading partners in the years leading up to WW2. (A significant number of the weapons they used against us were wholly/partially US made) Hitler and Stalin did tremendous amounts of trade before Operation Barbarossa. (German soldiers actually waited for one last Russian trade with goods to enter German-controlled Poland before crossing the border) Pre-WW1 Europe was bustling with commerce among the nations that would later go to war – trade reached its peak in 1913, right before war broke out. The US Civil and Revolutionary Wars also featured very substantial trading partners going to war. Ditto the Napoleonic Wars.

    The US and China may never (hopefully) go to war, but claiming that they won’t do such a thing due to trade or money (including bonds, just another form of trade) is wishful thinking.

  • Ben

    Unshackle Japan, begin exporting the F-22 to S. Korea, Japan and Australia.

    That keeps us from assuming all the responsibility for protecting everyone in the region while at the same time gives us some much needed revenue. You know, like what China is doing.

  • OD351

    What?!? Did they just get off that V-22? That was a diplomatic risk of high magnitude giving these guys a joy ride on that death machine….

    • Mike

      OD351 the press has over reported the dangers of the V-22. They do this to get published, get ratings and reflect their political views. Vertical flight tends to be more dangerous then conventional aircraft but comes with advantages that conventional aircraft can’t meet. The V-22s safety record while not stellar is better then other vertical flight aircraft in the Marine inventory. The V-22 also brings with it capabilities that neither conventional or vertical lift aircraft can meet to accomplish tasks that could otherwise not be done.

  • hibeam

    I wonder if Chinese schools are anything like the expensive chaotic dysfunctional nightmares this country runs in cities like Detroit, Chicago and Oakland. Hope so. Otherwise we are in big trouble.


    I said for years a day of reckoning is coming for the US due to our budget and acquisition policies and it is nigh. Thanks to selfish and incompetent national leadership on Capitol Hill and the White House since Reagan, the US is slowly being relegated to the status of the former USSR and Rome. – – – ..

    Unfortunately development and production, at least for the US, take decades and this is not a trend easily reversed or in time to prevent our disability at the hands of others. – – -..

    Dangerous times are here and will get worse.

  • hello

    My God, they could at least clean that osprey, look at those marks from the engines.

  • Virgil Cuttaway

    The US is a declining power. China’s meteoric rise has been brought about totally by our trade policies and our manufacturing capability being moved to China. China has a long-term plan. The US, on the other hand, is more concerned about social programs than national security. This concern will bite us in the butt in the future.

  • Virgil Cuttaway
  • Greg

    It seems that China has sat back to watched the USA fight two wars. They know what we have today, and probably know most of what we will have tomorrow. In comparison, how mush do we really know about them? Do we know as much about their military, and what they could have in the near future? I do have to wonder. We put every piece of information on television and internet.

    • Ben

      Saying they’ve learned how we fight isn’t entirely accurate. We’ve only been at war with third world countries and guerilla groups. We haven’t faced a true conventional military power in over half a century, and thus haven’t shown our tactics for doing so in just as long.

      However I do agree that we disclose far too many capabilities as public knowledge nowadays. Sometimes I half wish for the Cold War days of secrecy.

  • jack cox

    obama et al dismantling our military, like NASA, will take decades to reconstruct, once he is gone

  • BSBS

    USA’s democracy system is hijacked by it’s politicians, they lied during election in order to get them self into government, then they could use the power to get most of tax payer money to spend in military, so that they can keep bullying other countries that disagree with them on any random invalid reasons, is this democracy? no, it is dictatorship internationally.
    The world order has changed. USA government knows it, this is why it is trying to rip every cent which is supposed to spend on ordinary American people, to put into military spending.
    because it will not willingly accept it is losing international power, it will do every way possible to prevent it, even World War. This is where real threat coming from in the future for all the human race.
    Wake up! Americans, people from all round world all admit American people build a great nation and great democracy system. Unfortunately, more and more countries and people are turning against USA, not American people, they are USA government and politicians, they have ruin your great country, bring USA to the edge of bankruptcy, eventually they will take whole world into fall out.

  • osman m. hassan

    it is time for the US not to push its nose into other nations affairs, specially in the middle east where it destroyed Iraq at the false allegation of acquiring weapons of mass destruction.