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PLA Air Force armament dept needs financial attention: chief

China must devote more resources to developing strategic bombers as a way to safeguard the nation's maritime interests, Yuan Qiang, chief of the PLA Air Force's armament department and member of the National People's Congress, said in an interview with national broadcaster China National Radio.

A modern PLA Navy with aircraft carriers, destroyers, frigates and submarines will not be enough to make China a maritime superpower, said the chief. To soldify China's ability to project its forces overseas, the PLA needs more strategic bombers, large cargo planes, early warning and air-refueling aircraft. It is now the time for China to show its determination to create a strong strategic air force, he said.

Several reforms must be made within the PLA Air Force, Yuan said in a presentation during the second session of the 12th National People's Congress. Equipment procurement, military representative, test flights, maintenance and price mechanism sytems must be improved to make sure the air force has the best weapon systems it can get for a reasonable price tag. All reform policy should be focused on how to help the air force win the war, according to Yuan.

Criticizing the price mechanism of the air force armament department, established a decade ago, for being out of date, Yuan suggested that private enterprise should be given the opportunity to cooperate and compete with the state-run defense industry. The old mechanism provides too much protection to state-run businesses, handicapping the air force and its ability to get the equipment which could really help it face challenges in the future, he said.

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