The United States is recognized by all countries in the world as the owner of the best airforce in the world. According to statistics from the British “International Flight” magazine, the size of the active fleet in the United States has reached as many as 13,232. Such a huge number of military aircrafts, this is a very large number, the military aircrafts of the United States are best in the world in terms of both quality and quantity. The number of Russian military aircrafts are ranked second with 4,143 aircrafts, and the number of Chinese military aircrafts are ranked third as 3,260 aircrafts. The total number of military aircraft of the two countries is only about 56% of the US military. However, in some areas now, China may be expected to overtake the United States in the upcoming decade.
The Paper quoted the US “The Theater” website as saying that the US’s advantage in the number of fighter jets may be surpassed by China as early as 2027, that is, the People’s Liberation Army will be a force with the largest number of fighter jets in the world. Interestingly, the US Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown also made a similar prediction, and the conclusions are basically the same.
In fact, among the more than 13,000 fighters of various types in the U.S. military, the real number of first-line combat aircraft is about 3,400. Excluding various helicopters, attack aircrafts and electronic warfare aircrafts, the number of fighters is about 2,700. According to the Air Force’s Future Years Defense Plan (FYDP), 1,463 military aircraft will be retired from active service between fiscal 2023 and fiscal 2027. The new procurement plan is only 467 aircraft, which will lead to the “loss” of 997 military aircraft by the US military. Although the reduction is not only fighter jets, but also various auxiliary models, fighter jets are indeed one of the “big heads” of the US military’s reduction.
According to the plan, the U.S. military will reduce the number of fighter jets to five in the future: F-35 stealth fighter, F-16 fighter, F-15EX fighter, sixth-generation NGAD fighter and A-10 attack aircraft. To this end, the U.S. Air Force will retire 421 fighter jets by fiscal year 2026, including 234 F-15s, 124 F-16s and 63 A-10s. By then, the number of fighter jets in the U.S. Air Force will plummet to 2,296, while the U.S. Naval Air Force and Marine Corps Aviation are also facing trouble with fewer fighters.
Not only that, but with regard to the 304 new fighter jets the U.S. Air Force has developed, both the Pentagon and Congress seem intent on cutting them. For example, the U.S. Air Force planned to purchase 48 F-35 stealth fighters in fiscal 2022, but by fiscal 2023, it will be reduced to 33, and will be further reduced to 29 by fiscal 2024. The Secretary of the Air Force has made it clear that the original 1,763 F-35 purchase plan will be reduced. As for the new F-15EX, the U.S. military originally planned to purchase 144 aircraft in the next 10 to 12 years, but this plan was also questioned by Congress, and many members requested to reduce the purchase of this fighter.
In stark contrast to the declining number of fighter jets in the United States, China’s total fighter jet fleet is increasing. According to the estimation of the British “International Flight”, the number of Chinese fighter jets in 2020 has reached more than 1,500, and China’s fighter jet industry still maintains a strong production capacity. Few people may know this: 30 years after the end of the Cold War, the only countries that can still manufacture fighter jets at a capacity of more than 100 per year are China and the United States. Russia, which ranked third, only had an annual output of about 90 fighter jets at its peak, with an average annual output of 60 to 70 aircraft.
According to this calculation, by 2027, China is expected to add 600 fighter jets of various types. Even if the old J-7 and J-8 are retired in batches, it will not stop our available fighters from growing in size. Whether the number of fighter jets in the United States will be surpassed by China in the future, or will it continue to maintain the number one in the world, 2027 may become an important node between China and the United States.
But the overall analysis of the this article is that maybe china will be able to suppress the United States in the total numbers of front-line fighter aircrafts, so in other words the People’s Liberation Army Air Forces maybe be able to induct and produce more numbers of combat aircrafts, but China still cannot match the United States in terms of technology and experience.
The United States has the best military aviation technology in the world since many decades, from the design and development of radars, missiles, jet engines, etc, no country on this planet can match the technological level of the United States. So, maybe China will be able to commission more aircrafts in its airforce, but still those aircrafts are still of low level in terms of overall performance and other parameters. It will take China many decades to match the United States in terms of technological advantages and experience.