air force

air force

Chinese Air Power: Revolution or Evolution?

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In the space of two decades, the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has developed from an obsolescent force with a limited capability into a service that aims to support day/night all-weather defensive and offensive operations, and to enable regional power projection. Aircraft and weapons inventories have been revamped as the PLAAF shifted from the indigenous procurement of ageing designs to importing more capable combat aircraft and, latterly, to the development of 'fifth-generation' designs, such as the J-20 and J-31 now in flight test. Organisational change has also been implemented, intended to help develop a more flexible force suitable for all-arms operations. The PLAAF, however, remains very much a work in progress, with areas of continuing weakness that have yet to be addressed adequately. Just how capable the PLAAF is likely to become, and the extent of its reach, are important issues not only for states neighbouring China, but also for other resident powers in the Asia-Pacific, such as the US.