Jet de­lay adds to China threat

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

The threat from Chinese ad­vanced weapons, in­clud­ing new stealth fight­ers and bal­lis­tic mis­siles, dom­i­nated con­cerns ex­pressed by se­nior mil­i­tary of­fi­cers at a Se­nate hear­ing last week on the mil­i­tary im­pact of de­lays and prob­lems with the new fifth-gen­er­a­tion F-35 jet.

Two se­nior of­fi­cers in charge of U.S. air power voiced in­creas­ing wor­ries that U.S. forces will not be pre­pared for a fu­ture con­flict with China, dur­ing a hear­ing of the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices air­land sub­com­mit­tee on May 24.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Her­bert J. Carlisle, deputy chief of staff for op­er­a­tions, said China’s roll­out ear­lier this year of a new J20 stealth fighter, which has made two or three test flights, is very trou­bling, along with an­other joint Rus­sian-In­dian stealth jet.

Both air­craft could be sold to Iran and af­fect a fu­ture U.S. in­ter ven­tion there against Tehran’s nu­clear pro­gram.

“Those are dis­cour­ag­ing in that they rolled out in a time that we thought there was maybe a lit­tle bit more time, al­though we weren’t sure of that,” Gen. Carlisle said.

The three-star gen­eral’s com­ments echoed ear­lier com­ments by Navy Vice Adm. David J. Dorsett, a se­nior in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial, who said of the J-20 in Jan­uary that “we have been pretty con­sis­tent in un­der­es­ti­mat­ing the de­liv­ery of Chinese tech­nol­ogy and weapons sys­tems.”

U.S. mil­i­tary fight­ers will re­main a pace ahead tech­no­log­i­cally of both the Chinese and Rus­sian stealth jets. But if there are fur­ther F-35 de­lays, “then that pac­ing is in jeop­ardy,” Gen. Carlisle said.

In un­usu­ally can­did com­ments on China’s grow­ing mil­i­tary power, Gen. Carlisle said: “You need only look across the Pa­cific and see what [China] is do­ing, not just their air force ca­pa­bil­ity, but their sur­face-to-air [mis­sile] ca­pa­bil­ity, their bal­lis­tic mis­sile ca­pa­bil­ity, their anti-ship bal­lis­tic mis­siles,” and new mis­siles that can reach U.S. bases in Guam and Ja­pan.

“All of those things are in­cred­i­bly dis­turb­ing to us for the fu­ture,” Gen. Carlisle said. “And again, [. . . ] we not only have to be able to de­feat those, we have to hold those tar­gets at risk, and that’s where these fifth-gen­er­a­tion air­craft come in.”

Asked dur­ing the hear­ing what “keeps you up at night,” Rear Adm. David L. Philman, Navy di­rec­tor of war­fare in­te­gra­tion, said: “Well, the China sce­nario is first and fore­most, I be­lieve, be­cause they seem to be more ad­vanced and they have the ca­pa­bil­ity out there right now, and their ships at sea and their other anti-ac­cess ca­pa­bil­i­ties.”

The Pen­tagon refers to China’s ad­vanced weapons, in­clud­ing bal­lis­tic mis­siles that hit ships at sea, new sub­marines, anti-satel­lite weapons and cy­ber­war­fare ca­pa­bil­i­ties, as “anti-ac­cess and area de­nial” arms.

Adm. Philman said the J-20 roll­out is a concern, but with 1,000 test hours on the F-35, the jet is a “far leap ahead from the Chinese fighter that’s flown three times.”

“But they will catch up. They un­der­stand. They’re a smart and learn­ing en­emy, and if we don’t keep our edge, then we will be be­hind, or at least lose our ad­van­tage,” Adm. Philman said.

Sen. Joe Lieber­man, Connecticut in­de­pen­dent and sub­com­mit­tee chair­man, said the Navy and Marine Corps are pro­ject­ing a short­age of up to 267 war­planes in the com­ing years for the 10 air­craft car­rier wings and three Marine Corps air wings.

New F-18s are be­ing bought to try to make the short­fall a more man­age­able risk, he said.

Our de­lay is China’s gain: F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

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