Fifth Gen and the Future in the Asia-Pacific

During the legislative battle in 2009 to end production of the F-22 at 187 airframes, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates forwarded an argument that the Chinese would have only a few hundred fifth generation fighters by the mid 2020s, as opposed to the United States having some 1,700 in its force structure by then. However, Pacific Air Forces Commander Gen. Hawk Carlisle last week said he was skeptical that this assessment is still valid. “I don’t know if that estimate is still accurate. . . . I don’t think it is,” said Carlisle, responding to a question, during his talk at AFA’s Air and Space Conference in National Harbor, Md., on Sept. 18. “The problem with that statistic is it doesn’t tell you anything,” he said, noting that the Chinese have arrayed thousands of ballistic missiles and have developed a credible surface-to-air missile threat, along with capable and credible jamming and electronic warfare tools. “They may not need fifth generation fighters. If something happens in the Asia-Pacific, it’s a home game for them,” said Carlisle.