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Work in Progress: China “is still struggling” to develop the indigenous capability to design and build modern military aircraft, China expert Bernard Cole, a professor of international history at the National War College in Washington, D.C., said Wednesday at AFA’s Air & Space Conference. For example, a glaring weakness of the Chinese remains developing gas-turbine engine technology, he said. For now, US aerospace achievements still stand out. “I think the Chinese are awed by the F-22,” said Cole. Despite China’s difficulties, its air arm, the 400,000-person-strong People’s Liberation Army Air Force, has made strides of late. Cole said the annual flight hours of a PLAAF pilot are increasing and probably stand at about 150 to 160. Plus, the PLAAF is coordinating its operations more with the Chinese naval air forces and is operating more over water and at lower altitudes. It is also increasing its airlift and aerial refueling capability.