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China, Russia Erode U.S. Stealth Technology Lead
By DAVE MAJUMDAR
Published: 24 May 2011 20:30
The United States' lead in stealth technology is eroding more quickly than anticipated, senior uniformed officials told Congress on May 24.
"Those are discouraging," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Herbert Carlisle, the service's deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Carlisle was referring to Russia's development of the Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA and China's efforts to build the Chengdu J-20 fifth-generation fighters.
"Over time I believe we will still maintain an advantage, but I think our advantage will be a shorter period of time," he said.
Carlisle added that the U.S. has maintained an advantage in stealth technology since the late 1970s with the debut of the now-retired F-117 stealth fighter.
"I don't see us maintaining an advantage for as long, as I think other nations will continue to gain that technology," he said.
Carlisle, who has extensive experience flying Soviet-built warplanes during the 1980s as part of the formerly classified 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron, said both Russia and China are skilled at building good fighter aircraft.
However, Carlisle cautioned that neither of those two countries would be able to build such aircraft overnight. It takes time and experience to build such sophisticated stealth warplanes, he said.
'These things are hard to develop," Carlisle said, pointing to the difficultly the U.S. faced in building the B-2 stealth bomber, F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
"We have the same assessment," added Marine Lt. Gen. Terry Robling, that service's deputy commandant for aviation, who was testifying alongside Carlisle. "What's keeping us ahead right now - I think the Joint Strike Fighter and its capabilities will do that."
Speaking to reporters after his testimony, Carlisle added that although he thought Russia and China will eventually get to an operational fifth-generation fighter, they are not remotely close to matching the F-35.
"I think they'll get there eventually, but by that time, we'll be at the next level," he said.