China is working hard to bring new stealth fighters and bombers online, and the US is preparing to push back with its F-35 stealth fighter, a US general commanding US air assets in the Pacific region told Bloomberg.
The Chinese military, according to US intelligence, is developing new medium- and long-range stealth bombers to provide penetrating strike capabilities. China’s new J-20 stealth fighter could be operational this year, and the country is also considering turning its J-31 stealth fighter into a stealthy carrier-based aircraft for the Chinese navy’s future carriers.
China’s air force is the largest in the region and the third largest in the world with 2,500 aircraft and 1,700 fighters, bombers, and attack aircraft. China is one of only three nations to develop a fifth-generation fighter, and if it successfully fields a nuclear-capable stealth bomber, it will be one of only three countries with a complete nuclear triad.
Gen. Charles Brown told Bloomberg this week that rising F-35 deployments will be needed to counter these developments. Talking about his observations of the way the Chinese operate, the commander of US Pacific Air Forces said, “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,” he added, noting that the J-20 represents a “greater threat” in the Pacific.
The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) transits the waters of the South China Sea.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)
Brown recently told Japanese reporters he expects the US and its allies in the Pacific to have as many as 200 F-35s operating in the region by 2025.
The US military has also been experimenting with the “Lighting Carrier” concept, turning flattop Navy amphibious assault ships into light aircraft carriers outfitted with stealth fighter jets, and the US Navy is moving closer to fielding aircraft carriers armed with F-35Cs.
US allies Japan, South Korea, and Australia are all part of the F-35 program.
Chinese analysts, according to Chinese media, have argued the Chinese J-20 fighter will have “overwhelming superiority” over the F-35, giving it the ability to take on the so-called “US F-35 friends circle.”
While China’s new fighter has some advantages, range in particular, it is generally considered to be less capable than its fifth-generation counterparts in the US military.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.