The Pentagon is digging deeper in its push for new air and space technologies as China threatens to unseat the US as king of the skies. Speaking with aerospace experts at the China Aerospace Studies Initiative, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work says the US' rival is "quickly closing the technological gaps," per Reuters. Specifically, China is developing highly advanced radar-evading aircraft, reconnaissance planes, missiles, and electronic warfare equipment, Work says, suggesting the US needs to step up its game. That’s becoming increasingly difficult, however, as "the margin of technological superiority upon which we have become so accustomed ... is steadily eroding," Work says.
"As the Department of Defense, we're the hedge force," he says. "We say, 'Look, here are capabilities that we see that the Chinese are developing and it's important for us to be able to counter those.'" Though he doesn’t exactly dive into what technologies the Pentagon is working on, he says one way we might do that is with directed energy weapons that can shoot down pricey missiles at a low cost. Interestingly, Work’s comments were quickly followed by a Xinhua report noting Chinese military officials are also boosting development of national defense technology. "The whole of the society should be encouraged to take part in the innovation cause," a Chinese official is quoted as saying. (Tension with China is clear at sea as well as in the skies.)