If ever there was a sign of a feisty and rising power, this is it. China is taking credit for a truncated buy of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that hasn’t even happened, yet. The website of China’s state-run People’ Daily reported that the Obama administration was reconsidering its purchase of F-35 fighters because of China’s rapidly growing military prowess.
The People’s Daily cites recent comments by Andrew Krepinevich, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, that the administration should cut the F-35 buy because short-ranged tactical fighters would be of limited utility in a war against China. The website says Krepinevich carries powerful sway in the Pentagon and his recommendations would likely be followed.
Krepinevich, and others at CSBA, have long been arguing that in future high-end battles, short-ranged tactical fighters have limited value, particularly in the face of ever improving Chinese reconnaissance strike complexes and long-range anti-air missiles.
Yet, as Krepinevich told our own Colin Clark, a point perhaps China misses, he argues for a cut in the F-35 buy in order to free up money to spend on long-range strike weapons — bombers and missiles — that would be better suited to penetrating Chinese air-defenses.
So, sure China could take credit for a cut in F-35s, if that happens; but if Krepinevich’s advice was truly followed by the Pentagon, the net result would be a weakening of China’s strategic position.