NEW YORK, the U.S. (BulgarianMilitary.com) – China may declare its first stealth fighter operational this year as it also develops long-range bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons, learned BulgarianMilitary.com, quoting Bloomberg.
General Charles Brown, the head of Pacific Air Forces, said the stealthy J-20 fighter could “possibly” be operational this year, a move he said would signal “greater threat, greater capability” for China in the Pacific. He went on to emphasize that U.S. efforts to counter those developments include rising deployments of next-generation F-35 jets and continuing overflights of strategic areas such as the South China Sea.
“My sense of the way the Chinese operate is somewhat incremental,” Brown said in an interview this week at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York. “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.”
Fielding the J-20 would add to what’s already the region’s largest air force and world’s third largest, with more than 2,500 total aircraft including 1,700 combat fighters, strategic bombers, tactical bombers and multi-mission tactical and attack aircraft, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency said in a report earlier this year.
China’s J-20 fighter is part of a modernization 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.” according to the report.
Brown also said he thinks China is moving to develop dual-use bombers that would be “similar to our bombers” in terms of being able to carry nuclear weapons and non-nuclear precision-guided weapons. “I don’t think it would be too far off the mark to say they could do that as well,” Brown added, without indicating whether China may have a stealth bomber capability.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, in a statement Wednesday for the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee, said a Chinese long-range bomber “if successful, would make it only one of three nations” to “possess a nuclear triad” of land, sea and air-based nuclear capabilities.
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