by Paul Szoldra - Business Insider - China's military is fast approaching "near parity" with western
nations, according to a new report from the International
Institute for Strategic Studies. In its 2017 Military Balance report, which focuses on global
military capabilities and defense spending, IISS experts say that
China has made significant progress in research and development
and improved its military capabilities, putting it close to on
par with the US and other allies.
"Western military technological superiority, once taken for
granted, is increasingly challenged," Dr. John Chipman,
Director-General and Chief Executive of IISS, said in a
statement. "We now judge that in some capability areas,
particularly in the air domain, China appears to be reaching
near-parity with the West." Instead of its usual practice of working on systems that imitate
Soviet and Russian technology, China has shifted its efforts (and
budget) to domestic research and development. Its Navy is
currently working on three new advanced cruisers, 13 destroyers,
and outfitting other ships with better radar.
But China's efforts on new aircraft have been the most
effective. China has its own stealthy J-20 and J-31 fighters, helped in
part by stolen technical details of the F-22 and
though it still seems to lack many of the
capabilities of its US counterparts. But Beijing has made up for
that in the development of a long-range air-to-air missile that
has no western equivalent. "Seen on exercise last year and estimated at near-six
meters in length, this developmental missile likely has the
task of engaging large high-value and non-maneuvering targets,"
Chapman said. "With a lofted trajectory, an engagement range
around 300 kilometers would appear feasible." That long range makes that kind of missile particularly deadly to
aircraft that supports short range fighters, such as aerial
tankers and AWACS, which provide an airborne radar platform. Interestingly, the report notes, China's progress is "now
the single most important driver for US defense developments."