Pacific Air Forces and several partners and allies in the Asia-Pacific region are closely tracking the steadily rising modernization of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and its air forces, said Gen. Gary North, PACAF commander. Meeting with reporters on Thursday at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., North said a good deal of the PLA’s force structure was built around conventional systems that are now aged. He said, too, that the Chinese are now taking advantage of technology to modernize a fleet of aircraft largely built around third and early fourth generation aircraft. While the J-20 stealth aircraft garnered a great deal of fanfare on its rollout, it will take some time before the Chinese are able to field it and have it operational, said North. While there is a great deal of cooperation with the Chinese on matters such as counterpiracy and counterterrorism, North noted that several US allies in the region also share concerns about the growth of the Chinese military and its global influence—particularly in areas where there are “opportunities for friction” such as the South China Sea.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.