New attack drones, 5th-generation stealth fighter jets, reconfigured cargo planes and Russian-built air defenses are making China’s Air Force even deadlier. In fact, all of these advances present a great concern to U.S. war planners.
The size of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force is reported to include a total of 2,500 aircraft, making it the third-largest in the world, according to the Pentagon’s 2020 China Military Power report.
U.S. threat assessors are not merely concerned about the size of the Chinese Air Force but the increasing technical sophistication and multi-mission tactics with which it operates. For instance, as part of its discussion of Chinese airpower, the report notes that China operates highly advanced, Russian-built S-400 and S-500 air defenses.
These systems, among the best in the world, increasingly use networked digital processors, faster computer speeds and a wider range of frequencies to detect aircraft. Russian media reports have claimed that their air defenses can even track stealth aircraft, a claim that has yet to be formally verified.