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Can anything stop China's super-fighter?


If you haven't already seen it, check out The Jamestown Foundation's provocative report about China's J-20 super-fighter that John mentioned on Friday. Its author declares the J-20 will completely change the balance of power in Asia because it gives China the ability to penetrate any other nation's air defenses with impunity. No other fighter in the neighborhood can match the J-20, it says, and its range and speed mean it could attack American bases in South Korea, Japan and Guam -- or any other targets it so so chose -- and there's nothing anyone can do.

The report concludes:

The strategic choices available to the United States and its allies for dealing with the J-20 are very limited; such is the potency of all aircraft combining stealth and supersonic cruise capabilities. These distill down to the deployment of large numbers of F-22A Raptor fighters in the region, and the development and deployment of "counter-stealth" radars operating in the HF, VHF, and UHF radio-frequency bands. Funding for the production of the F-22A was stopped in 2009, following an intensive political effort by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates. There is no program to fund the development and volume production of "counter-stealth" radars.

The incumbent U.S. Administration has thus committed itself politically to a path in developing air power for the U.S. armed services and allied air forces [that is] predicated wholly on future opponents operating obsolete Soviet era air defense weapons and fighters. The unveiling of the Russian T-50 PAK-FA and Chinese J-20 over the last two years has not produced any significant changes in U.S. planning, which may challenge the United States and its Pacific Rim allies’ strategic advantage in conventional air power.

Gates says that's not so -- that the F-22 and the F-35 are more than a match for any upstart new-generation fighters that may appear in Asia or elsewhere, and that besides, the U.S. and its allies will be flying hundreds or thousands of F-35s by the time China is producing J-20s in significant numbers. Not only that, look at how difficult it has been for the U.S. to develop both of its fifth-gen fighters: The F-22s are grounded, the F-35 is behind schedule, and the cost of both has been astronomic. Mightn't the Chinese encounter their own challenges with cost, design or schedule?

What do you think?

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