What Is The Ratio Of U.S. And Chinese Military Aircraft?

j-20 and f-35
China’s J-20 (left) and the U.S. F-35.
Credit: Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images (left); Lockheed Martin (right)

Ask the Editors: The Aviation Week Network invites our readers to submit questions to our editors and analysts. We’ll answer them, and if we can’t we’ll reach out to our wide network of experts for advice.

What is the ratio of military aircraft between the U.S. and China?

Jen DiMascio, Aviation Week Executive Editor, Defense and Space, responds:

The U.S. military operates 13,319 aircraft—about three times as many manned aircraft as the Chinese military, which operates 4,519. But the ratio is not even across all types of aircraft, according to Aviation Week Intelligence Network (AWIN) data analysts Dan Urchick and Michael Tint.

When it comes to combat aircraft, the ratio is more narrow: The U.S. operates 3,435 aircraft while China operates 1,943. For now, the U.S. has a qualitative edge—with 586 fifth-generation combat aircraft to China’s 38.

The U.S. possesses especially large advantages in rotary-wing aircraft (4.3:1); tankers and transports (4.8:1); and command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) platforms (4.1:1), according to AWIN data.

Jen DiMascio

Based in Washington, Jen previously managed Aviation Week’s worldwide defense, space and security coverage.