The first publicly observed flight of the Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter in January and the more recent emergence of the ex-Soviet Varyag aircraft carrier demonstrate China’s progress toward becoming a modern military power by 2020. But China’s ability to project force outside the region remains limited in the near term, the U.S.
Admiral Kuznetsov class aircraft carrier
A century ago, the U.S. Navy purchased its first airplane after a series of tests in which a brave pilot–wearing inflated bicycle inner tubes as a lifejacket–demonstrated one could land safely aboard a ship and then take off from the same vessel. The date of that purchase–May 8, 1911–is considered the birthday of naval aviation. In the hundred years since, the aircraft carrier has evolved from a scouting tool to a leading strike weapon.