US Still Most Powerful Air Force, China Ranks 4th: National Interest

China's air force, which consists of the People's Liberation Army Air Force and the Navy Air Force, has been ranked the world's fourth most lethal power in the world, according to an article published by Kyle Mizokami, a defense expert in National Interest magazine.

In the article, Mizokami said that the United States Air Force is still the most powerful air force on the planet. With 5,600 aircraft in hand, the USAF is the first air force worldwide to put stealth combat aircraft such as F-22s and F-35s in service. Mizokami said that the USAF is planning to purchase 1,763 F-35 fighters and up to 100 optionally manned Long-Range Strike Bombers. The role of unmanned aerial vehicles with stealth and combat capabilities will increase as well.

With 312,000 active-duty members, the USAF has fewer personnel than the PLAAF. However, it has more aircraft than its Chinese counterpart. Mizokami then said that the US' Navy and Marine Corps together make it the world's second most lethal air power. Both groups, under the control of the US Department of the Navy and have a total of 159 fighters, 133 attack aircraft, 172 patrol aircraft, 247 transports and 1,231 helicopters.

The Russian Air Force ranks third in the world for most lethal air power, according to the article. Russia has 1,500 combat aircraft and 400 military helicopters. However, most of these aircraft are old fighters such as MiG-29s, Su-27s and MiG-31s produced at the end of Cold War. At the same time, the Russian Air Force controls strategic bombers including the Tu-95 "Bear," Tu-22 "Backfire," and Tu-160 "Blackjack," even though it does not control strategic missile forces.

Like the US, Russia is developing stealth fighters as well. Its defense contractors are now developing T-50/PAK-FA fifth-generation fighters for the Russian Air Force. There are also rumors that a new strategic bomber is being worked on as well. With the support of president Vladimir Putin, Russia also modified its Su-27 fighter with new and cutting-edge technologies to design the Su-35 fourth-generation plus fighter. It had already entered the service in limited number.
Finally, Mizokami said that the Chinese PLAAF and PLANAF together come in fourth place for the title of world's strongest air force. Both services possess 1,321 fighter and attack aircraft, 134 heavy bombers and tankers and twenty airborne early-warning aircraft. In addition, the PLA operates 700 combat helicopters. China is also currently the only nation developing two stealth fighters, the J-20 and J-31, simultaneously besides the United States.

In the future, the J-31 stealth fighter is likely to serve aboard Chinese aircraft carriers just like the F-35C in the US Navy. Mizokami stressed that China is also pushing forward with a variety of unmanned combat aircraft like the Dark Sword. To project its influence overseas, China is also attempting to develop a strategic bomber to replace its older H-6 and cargo plane Y-20.

Japan, China's potential enemy in a territorial dispute over the East China Sea, ranks number five on the list. Its air self defense force has more than 300 air superiority and multirole fighters. Pilots from Japan Air Self Defense are trained to defend the country's islands from enemy attacks. They also practice ground attacks and anti-shipping missions. However, the JASDF is highly specialized towards defensive combat.

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