Rumors and Threats of Wars

China poised to deploy stealth fighters in South China Sea says US as tensions mount

China poised to deploy stealth fighters in South China Sea says US as tensions mount

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.

By CIARAN MCGRATH. PUBLISHED: 17:42, Thu, May 2, 2019 | UPDATED: 17:56, Thu, May 2, 2019.

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 envelope 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.

Mr Brown also believes China is trying to develop dual-use bombers “similar to our bombers” in terms of being able to carry nuclear weapons and non-nuclear precision-guided weapons.

He added: “I don’t think it would be too far off the mark to say they could do that as well.”

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” (the others being the US and Russia) to “possess a nuclear triad” of land, sea and air-based nuclear capabilities.

Mr Brown said the US had a number of ways to counter China’s build up.

They include being unpredictable in deployments of the B-1B, B-52 and B-2 bombers.

The B-1B, Mr Brown said, is now qualified to carry a new anti-ship missile built by Lockheed Martin, a few of which have been stockpiled in the Pacific region.

Mr Brown, a four-star general who has logged more than 130 combat flight hours out of 2,900 overall, was on the US East Coast this week to speak with Asia experts about the challenges facing his command.

He started in the job more than eight months ago, having served as deputy commander of US operations in the Middle East and head of the air war against Islamic State in 2015-2016.

He explained one of his key motivations as “how do I gain a greater understanding of how China operates” not only their equipment capability – but how they operate, how they command and control.

Mr Brown added: “I want to understand what makes their blood pressure go up” to avoid miscalculations.

He said: “Their propensity to fly out over the water has increased over the years.” he said.

Referring to the State Department and Pentagon’s review of a potential sale of new F-16s to Taiwan and President Donald Trump’s advisers encouragement of Taiwan to submit a formal request for the jets, Mr Brown added: “There’s been a little increase in tension there recently, which may be the impetus” behind Taiwan’s request.

The US hasn’t sold advanced fighter jets to Taiwan since President George HW Bush announced the sale of 150 F-16s in 1992, likely in a bid to avoid antagonising Beijing.

The Obama administration rejected a similar Taiwanese request for new jets, instead agreeing in 2011 to upgrade the island’s existing fleet.

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