My latest at the Diplomat takes a look at a recent RAND report on China’s air force…
It is well understood that China has purchased, acquired, or adapted many aerospace technologies from other countries. This includes everything from straightforward off-the-shelf purchase of Russian aircraft, to cyberespionage directed against American producers of stealth technology. Harold suggest that the technological focus runs the risk of ignoring China’s interest in the U.S. Air Force (and other air forces) as an institutional model. Organizational structure both enables and limits the use of military force, and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has made close study of U.S. military institutions, especially in the aerospace sector. This includes command and control arrangements, training, and unit structure.
Long story short, the configuration of military institutions matters a great deal with respect to how those institutions accumulate capabilities and what mission sets they attempt. In particular, the Chinese do missiles and space differently than the US, which may lead to some weird outcomes down the line.