Asia's F-35 buyers forced to wait as China seeks edge
CANBERRA (REUTERS) - The Pentagon's F-35 warplane is giving the United States' allies in Asia a headache as they look to replace ageing jets with a cutting edge aircraft now likely to be at least seven years late in offering a strategic deterrent to China.
The US$400 billion (S$504 billion) weapons project has suffered technical faults, delays, cost overruns and now US budget cuts that could force Washington to scale back its own purchases. At the same time,
China's soaring defence spending is rapidly eroding the advantage in technology, particularly in air power, that Washington and some of its regional allies have had over the People's Liberation Army since the 1950s. China is also flight testing two stealth fighters, the J-20 and the J-31, although they are not expected to enter service until the end of the decade at the earliest, military aviation experts said.
"It's an open question as to how advanced and sophisticated they actually are," said Mr Andrew Davies, a senior strategy analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, referring to the Chinese fighters. "But having said that, they make life more difficult for existing types, so the F-35 becomes more important."