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US Air Force secretary says new planes must intimidate China

Middle East missions and self-serving lawmakers have softened USAF, says senior leadership

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Artist's rendition of a veiled Chinese H-20 stealth bomber. (Twitter, Airway image)

Artist's rendition of a veiled Chinese H-20 stealth bomber. (Twitter, Airway image)

(TAIPEI) Taiwan News — U.S. Air Force leaders have said the service branch's old school models must be swapped out quickly for new platforms that intimidate the country’s up and coming rival, China.

Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum on Saturday (Dec. 4), Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall expressed doubt that antiquated aircraft like MQ-9 Reapers and the A-10 Warthog pose enough of a threat to the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force.

“If it doesn’t threaten China, why are we doing it?” Kendall said, according to a Defense News report.

Kendall said much of the U.S. platform is three decades old and had its heyday doing anti-terror missions in the Middle East. Though useful at the time, this platform would not be up to the task of taking on China, which, by contrast, has strategically developed its air force to take down high-value American assets.

America now needs to respond in kind and develop platforms that can surpass the PLA’s own rising capabilities, he said.

Kendall explained that his country’s lawmakers are in large part to blame for delays in getting rid of old models. Many members of Congress do not want existing weapons programs to end in their home states, which often act as a steady source of jobs for voters.

Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Q. Brown concurred, adding that more high-end fighters like the F-35 need to be brought online.

The Air Force has operated in the permissive environment of the Middle East for decades, he said. In that theater, the service has not had to worry about advanced anti-aircraft systems from the enemy.

Yet a potential war with China would be completely different. The communist country has advanced weaponry that can deny America access to its domain, he said.

Outmaneuvering China will be no mean task though.

The country’s new J-20 Weilong, meaning "strong dragon," twin-seater stealth fighter was rumored to have made its maiden flight last month. Nicknamed the "two-headed dragon," it is supposed to be the world’s first stealth fighter that can hold two pilots.

The PLA Air Force is also developing a new strategic stealth bomber, likely to be dubbed the H-20, which employs “many fifth-generation technologies,” boasts a range of 8,500 kilometers, and has a payload of “at least 10 metric tons.”

It is believed this bomber will be capable of nuclear missions as well as conventional ones. The H-20 is also rumored to be able to carry and fire four hypersonic stealth cruise missiles.