China’s missiles turn the balance of power against India, US
Beijing :For a quarter century, the US and its allies owned the skies, fighting wars secure in the knowledge that no opponent could compete in the air. As tensions with Russia and China surge, that’s no longer the case.
Rapid technological progress in China’s aerospace industry, particularly air-to-air missile systems fired from an aircraft, is changing the game for Western air forces and the global arms trade. It’s also altering the picture for China’s neighbours such as India.
Russia took the lead in modernising its air force, and has been more willing to use it. In the longer term, however, China’s roughly $13 trillion economy and growing wealth mean it is likely to pose the greater strategic challenge for the US and its allies. In 2017, Chinese defence spending rose by 5.6% in constant US dollar terms, while Russia’s fell by 20%, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. China spent $228 billion last year and Russia $66.3 billion, SIPRI said.
“We had an environment where we could do whatever we wanted in the air, and what the Chinese have done is to say you no longer can,” said Douglas Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. As a result, US commanders now have to take into account potential loss rates for pilots and aircraft that they haven’t had to face since the 1980s.
The US air force remains the strongest by far. Yet the Chinese advances come at a sensitive time, as the US appetite to continue its role as global policeman fades. Meanwhile President Xi Jinping has set ambitious goals to dominate advanced industries like robotics and artificial intelligence and to assert Chinese interests in the disputed South China Sea and beyond.