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Defence & Aerospace

China and Russia to challenge US Air Force supremacy in East Asia?


US and China military aircrafts (photo from HK Defense TV YouTube video ‘US Air Force VS China Air Force Comparison 2017’)

Reuters reported on Nov 16 that the “U.S. military will withdraw hundreds of troops focused on counterterrorism operations in Africa over the next several years to support the Pentagon’s increased focus on countering threats from China and Russia, officials said on Thursday.

‘This realignment specifically projects to reduce forces by about 10 percent over the next several years — representing a fraction of the overall 7,200 DoD personnel operating in Africa,’ Commander Candice Tresch, a Pentagon spokeswoman, told Reuters …”

Such a move is in line with an earlier statement by the US Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson in Sep that the US Air Force “intends to grow by a total of more than 70 squadrons as follows:

• 5 additional bomber squadrons
• 7 more fighter squadrons
• 7 additional space squadrons
• 14 more tanker squadrons
• 7 special operations squadrons
• 9 nine combat search-and-rescue squadrons
• 22 squadrons that conduct command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
• 2 remotely piloted aircraft squadrons
• 1 more airlift squadron”

For what purpose? “… Wilson cited growing threats from Russia and China … Their innovative ways in electronic warfare, hypersonics and testing have given the Defense Department reason to prototype and experiment faster, she said.”

“When you go from 312 operations squadrons to 386 …” Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, commander of the Air Force Personnel Center said such a buildup would “require 40,000 additional personnel”.

Despite the hugeness of the defense budget, budget by its nature means a limit. Therefore, the Pentagon has to cut ‘that’ so as to fill ‘this’. Obviously, the US is re-balancing its strength by shrinking the land forces in Africa for expanding the air forces in East Asia. Why?

Here are at least two considerations. First, everybody knows it is about Taiwan.

Second, there is a ‘quite new’ argument. According to Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who spoke on Nov 6, the “… US military has also attempted to reach out to China to fix their broken ties, but Moscow may have already stepped in. Both Russia and China have pushed back against US depictions of them as belligerent nations and have sought improved bilateral cooperation against what they see as US military and economic global hegemony …”

In other words, there is a risk of having Russia coming into this region. It is still unclear what it means, but one possibility is that when Beijing’s encirclement of the Taiwan island is disturbed by the US jet fighters, Russian planes may come to play a game as both can claim to be simply flying over international space. Who knows?

The opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of China Daily Mail.

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About keith K C Hui

Keith K C Hui is a Chinese University of Hong Kong graduate major in Government and Public Administration and the author of "Helmsman Ruler: China's Pragmatic Version of Plato's Ideal Political Succession System In The Republic" (2013).

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