The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II takes part in a flying display at the Farnborough Airshow, south west of London, July 12, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
The US Air Force’s “rapidly” fading supremacy over its Russian and Chinese counterparts has worried American military commanders, a new report suggests.
According to a report published by The Washington Times on Monday, Russia and China have been test-flying their fifth generation jet fighters for quite some time.
Russia, for example, has been putting the finishing touches on the Sukhoi-T50, aka PAK FA, aircraft. The warplane, which is the first ever Russian jet to use stealth technology, rivals America’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and is expected to enter service in 2018.
China has also been working on at least two advanced warplanes, namely the Shenyang J-31 and the Chengdu J-20.
This is while the F-35 project, which was launched in 2001, has missed several deadlines due to many software bugs and dissatisfactory performances.
The $379 billion jet, which is referred to as the world’s most expensive weapon, has blown out its budget by nearly 70 percent. It will cost another one trillion dollars to maintain during its lifetime.
The USAF grounded dozens of its controversial F-35 jets “due to the discovery of peeling and crumbling insulation in avionics cooling lines inside the fuel tanks” earlier in September, less than two months after declaring the warplanes ready for combat.
Before the F-35, the US had developed the F-22 Raptor stealth jets, but the fifth-generation warplane’s production was ceased in 2009 due to high cost. Only 188 of the planned 749 F-22s were ever produced.
“The most pressing challenge for the United States Air Force is the rise of peer competitors with advanced military capabilities rivaling our own,” Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein told lawmakers in June.
According to the Pentagon’s annual assessment of the Chinese military, the country’s air force “is rapidly closing the gap with Western air forces across a broad spectrum of capabilities.”
In May, Air Force General Herbert Carlisle said “a resurgent Russia and a very, very aggressive China” were causing concern in Washington.
The report comes as Western military officials have stepped up their rhetoric of fear against Russia and China, exaggerating Moscow and Beijing’s military might and framing it as a threat for the rest of the world.