China is currently outpacing the U.S. in fifth-generation fighter jet production, a development that would shift military power in the Pacific.
Nikkei reported that China’s inventory of J-20A fighters already boasts 150 available jets, nearly matching America’s current count of 187 F-22 Raptors.
“The pace of China’s defense industrial output means it is catching up. Indeed, if deliveries continue at the same speed, in 2023 the number of J-20As will eclipse the inventory of the U.S. Air Force’s other fifth-generation combat aircraft, the F-22,” said John Chipman, director-general and chief executive of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).
Chipman also noted that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the importance of strong weapon stockpiles and defense capacity.
“Immediate equipment requirements have led some European states to look to new suppliers beyond domestic or traditional sources,” he added.
The F-22 Raptor, the world’s first fifth-generation fighter jet, was first launched in the 1990s and is still considered the U.S. military’s most advanced jet. The jet began service in 2005, intended to replace the F-15 Eagle, according to Asia Times.
Sandboxx also explained the impressive array of weaponry the F-22 can carry into combat.
“For a combat air patrol, the Raptor can carry two AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking air-to-air missiles and six AIM-120 AMRAAM radar-guided missiles. For close air support or precision strike mission, the F-22 can carry two 1,000 pounds GBU-32 JDAMs or eight 250-pound Small Diameter Bombs, in addition to pairs of both AIM-9s and AIM-120s,” the outlet explained.
“In all of these loadouts, the aircraft’s M61A2 20-millimeter cannon with 480 rounds ensures a fearsome foe in dogfights,” it added.
In addition to weaponry, the F-22 is known for its stealth and amazing speed. The fighter jet can reach up to Mach 2.25 (1,500 miles per hour) without using its afterburners.
Despite the F-22’s superiority, China continues to gain ground with its own military aircraft. While its top speed is about 1,321 miles per hour, the jet remains powerful enough to cause significant problems for enemies in combat.
The Asia Times report claims that more than 200 airframes could already be in production based on serial numbers released at a Chinese trade show. If so, the nation’s military is on track to surpass the number of existing F-22s available to the U.S. military.
The U.S. reportedly needs to produce a total of 72 fighters per year to stay at top level above other nations. The recent reports of China’s fighter jet expansion could push U.S. military leaders to pursue increased production to remain ahead of competitors.