China’s jet fighter force may have already caught up with the quality and quantity of the US, prompting new urgent calls in Washington to build up and modernize the US fighter fleet.

US Air Combat Command Chief General Mark Kelley said that America’s combat air forces are 12 squadrons short of multiple aircraft types at the US Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space, and Cyber Conference this month, as reported by the Air and Space Forces Magazine.

He cautioned that the US had departed the era of conventional overmatch, with US combat air forces less than half of what they were during the 1991 Gulf War. However, exact aircraft numbers are highly classified; fighter squadrons generally consist of between 18 and 24 jets.

“When you have conventional overmatch, strategic risk is low. But that’s not where we’ve arrived in terms of conventional deterrence,” Kelly said.

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