19 December 2012

The Chinese Air Force: Evolving Concepts, Roles, and Capabilities

Richard P. Hallion, Roger Cliff, and Phillip C. Saunders, eds., The Chinese Air Force: Evolving Concepts, Roles, and Capabilities (Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 2012).

This path-breaking study boasts contributions from some of the foremost authorities in the field. A must-read for everyone interested in the past, present, and future of China’s air force.

Book Description:

There is no question which country has made the greatest strides in developing its airpower capability. Over the last two decades, China’s air force, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), has transformed itself from a large, poorly-trained force operating aircraft based on 1950s Soviet designs to a leaner and meaner force flying advanced Russian and indigenously produced fourth-generation fighters. This remarkable transformation is still a work in progress, but China has made up a lot of ground in a short time.

The ever-accelerating transformation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the years since the era of Mao Zedong, particularly in its economic and military growth, has been nothing short of remarkable. Developments over the last quarter-century—effectively since the tragedy of Tiananmen Square and the collapse of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact alliance—have been more so still. The relationship of this increasingly robust and growing power to the established global community is a complex one, and no thornier aspect of that relationship can be found than the uneasy interplay among the PRC, Taiwan, and the countries that deal with both.

In late October 2010, a distinguished international group of experts on airpower, military affairs, and the PRC-Taiwan relationship gathered in Taipei to examine the present state and future prospects of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). The conference was the latest in a series of international conferences on the affairs of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) cosponsored by the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies (CAPS), the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), the U.S. National Defense University (NDU), and the RAND Corporation. Over 3 days, speakers presented 14 papers on aspects of airpower, the PLAAF, and the implications for Taiwan, and panels discussed and debated the presentations, taking questions and comments from an audience of 115 registered attendees, with many others dropping by.

This book is a compilation of the edited papers, reflecting comments and additions stimulated by the dialogue and discussion at the conference to examine present state and future prospects of the People’s Liberation Air Force (PLAAF).

For the companion volume, see Phillip C. Saunders, Christopher Yung, Michael Swaine, and Andrew Nien-dzu Yang, eds., The Chinese Navy: Expanding Capabilities, Evolving Roles (Washington, DC: Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs, Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University, 2011).

For one of the chapters in that volume, see Andrew S. Erickson and Michael S. Chase,Informatization and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy.”