The US military is looking towards China as the biggest threat in the foreseeable future. Every year the Chinese keep increasing their defense budget and modernizing their armed forces, all the while rattling their sabers and acting like the armed invasion of Taiwan is just around the corner.
While the Chinese might very well do something stupid like launch an invasion across the Formosa Straights, I’m not convinced that they’re as much of a problem as anyone trying to guard a defense budget says they are. As long as the US and her allies stand by Taiwan, they don’t have a realistic chance of taking the island by force.
This essay by Harold C. Hutchison at Strategypage.com examines the changes being made in the Chinese Air Force. (Post from April 9, 2005.) While the PLAAF has huge numbers of aircraft, the majority are outmoded models that wouldn’t stand a chance. Even the modernized aircraft that the Chinese can bring to bear couldn’t be used to their full potential due to a lack of force-multiplying support aircraft and low levels of pilot training.
It’s worth a read, if only because most observers have been focusing on the naval situation and missing the air force picture.