If you’re wondering why the Air Force was a big winner in recent budget shifts proposed by defense secretary Robert Gates, it might have something to do with the Pentagon’s growing concern about Chinese military breakthroughs. Over the last few years, Beijing has tested its first anti-satellite weapon, its first maneuvering ballistic warhead, and now its first stealthy strike aircraft. Each of these programs poses a threat to U.S. military forces in the Western Pacific, not to mention the forces of China’s neighbors. Air power is the most potent response to China’s regional pretensions, but Gates has been more concerned with fighting insurgents than preparing for America’s next peer competitor. Now the tide is turning as military planners awaken to the emerging danger. The Air Force has been given the go-ahead to develop a new long-range bomber, and that will probably be followed by a rethink of whether it made sense to cancel the top-of-the-line F-22 fighter at barely half of the service’s stated warfighting requirement. I have posted an analysis of these developments at Forbes.com, which you can read here.
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