Wired.com has a sobering assessment of China's recent aerial war games.
Let's set aside the jokes about parallel parking and realize that China has developed a world class air force, the largest next only to America's and Russia's, that will soon be deploying not one but two indigenous stealth fighters.
In terms of authenticity, China’s pretend air battles are getting
pretty close to the real thing. That improving realism, combined with
Beijing’s new fighters and other hardware, has some observers in the
U.S. feeling uneasy. For decades the Pentagon has counted on highly
realistic aerial training to mitigate the increasing age and decreasing
size of its warplane holdings. “That [training] used to be a significant
advantage U.S. air forces held relative to the PLAAF,” Dave Deptula, a
retired Air Force general who flew F-15 fighters, tells Danger Room.
The Pentagon still maintains other aerial edges, with more and better
fighters — including stealth models — and support planes plus decades
of combat experience in the Balkans, the Middle East and Central Asia.
But with every scripted dogfight over Dingxin, the American war game advantage shrinks — and with it the overall U.S. margin of superiority.
...The introduction of the Russian-made Su-30 fighter in the 1990s
finally gave the PLAAF a modern warplane it could match with more
intensive training techniques. Beijing massively expanded the Dingxin airbase and its adjacent flight range. The Chinese began deploying small numbers of pilots and planes to Kazakhstan for exercises, laying the foundation for far bigger war games back home.
Beijing also formed several aggressor units flying specially painted fighters meant to replicate the planes of China’s rivals.
Incrementally, and without much notice outside of China, the PLAAF
transformed routine flight training into the regular Red Sword/Blue
Sword mock air battles, modeled on Red Flag. By 2005 Beijing’s war games
were well underway. And a few years after that, the frontline
improvements began to show. As late as 2008 Chinese fighters couldn’t
make it even halfway across the Taiwan Strait before being chased off by
Taiwanese fighters and ground-based defenses. Today the situation is
reversed, and Taiwanese jets find themselves quickly intercepted. “It
shows improved reaction time and professionalism in the PLAAF,” Feng
...China probably still has a way to go before it can match the U.S.
plane-for-plane in the air. But the contest has officially begun, and
with every simulated dogfight over the plains surrounding Dingxin, the
Chinese inch closer to achieving the kind of realistic training that
transformed the U.S. military into the world’s leading air power.
Already Beijing enjoys one key advantage: Its training exercises
receive steady funding, whereas the U.S. Air Force’s own budget has been
repeatedly threatened by political posturing in Washington. “Given the
massive reductions in U.S. air combat training coming in the event of
sequestration, the PLAAF won’t have far to go to match and then exceed
us in terms of flying time and exercises,” Deptula warns.