The People's Liberation Army Air Force intends to expand its presence into space as part of its plan to become a world-class force, a senior officer said on Sunday.
Senior Colonel Wang Zhonghua, head of the Planning Bureau of the PLA Air Force's Equipment Department, said at a news conference in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, that the Air Force spares no efforts in handling all threats, and is gearing up to extend its reach beyond the clouds and into space.
He said the Air Force is undergoing revolutionary changes that will generate a system that can function in future warfare scenarios.
The news conference coincided with the 69th anniversary of the Air Force's founding and was part of the six-day 12th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition that concluded on Sunday in Zhuhai.
Lieutenant General Xu Anxiang, deputy commander of the Air Force, outlined a multiphase road map for building a strong, modern air force.
First, a strategic force will be established by 2020. It will have integrated air and space capability and balanced strength in both defensive and offensive operations.
When that is achieved, fourth-generation equipment will serve as the backbone of the Air Force's arsenal. Information-based systematic combat capabilities will be enhanced, he said.
The Air Force categorizes its top weapons such as the J-20 stealth fighter jet and Y-20 strategic transport aircraft as fourth-generation equipment, while the J-10 and J-16 combat fighters are classified as third-generation.
In the following phase, the Air Force will further improve its strategic capability and modernize its organizational structure, human resources and weaponry. The building of a modern strategic air force will essentially be achieved by 2035, Xu said.
Ultimately, the Air Force will be fully transformed into a world-class force by the mid-21st century, he said.