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.

  • 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.

      • radiogaga

        Well, just buy those planes from China then. I am sure it will a lot cheaper. It’s not like China doesn’t want to sell the planes. Instead of wasting money on one F-35, the US can acquire 3 or 4 J-31s.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • Pilgrimman

      Because Facebook is a great source of totally unbiased and accurate information!


      What, the J-20? Isn’t it a bit, big, for a nimble fighter?

      • Jeff

        FYI, it’s slightly smaller than a Su-27.

    • Tom

      The US military would like you to believe the J-20 and similar Chinese efforts are a real threat, just like they did with Russia and the Mig-25 in the early 1970’s. The reality is that the J-20 is probably inferior to current F-15’s due to inferior engine technology, electronics, and manufacturing quality.

  • 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?

  • John

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

  • 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.

    • Rest Pal

      Japan and S. Korea are suckers.

  • 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….

  • 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.

  • 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.