The US’s military procurement machine may be the single most successful system of wealth transfer ever devised – moving tens of billions of dollars every year from ordinary taxpayers into the pockets of big defense contractors and their allies in Congress. But as a provider of working equipment to defend the United States against realistic threats, it is becoming more and more dysfunctional with every passing year.
When the squadron has enough planes and trained pilots and maintainers, the air force can declare the first J-20 unit “combat-ready”—a milestone most analysts expect sometime in 2017. At that time, China will join an exclusive club—as only the second country to field a fleet of frontline radar-evading jets. The American F-117, the world’s first stealth warplane, entered service with the U.S. Air Force in 1983. The U.S. B-2 stealth bomber followed in 1997, the supersonic F-22 stealth fighter in 2005, and the F-22’s smaller cousin the F-35 in July 2015.
By the 2030s, the Pentagon could possess as many as 1,700 F-35s plus 180 or so F-22s and 20 B-2s.
No other country has war-ready stealth warplanes, although Russia is working on one—and eight U.S. allies have ordered the F-35, with several more planning on also buying the plane in the near future. But while it’s pretty certain China will soon deploy J-20s, it’s not clear why—or how effectively—it will do so. Continue reading