Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro has called China his service’s “most significant” challenge, and he’s dead right. Recent satellite images suggest China has been building a model of an American aircraft carrier in the desert to use as target practice. It’s clear the rising power intends to hit the U.S. Navy’s most visible and valuable ships at sea. Yet the American carrier fleet isn’t set up to strike Chinese targets ashore. Instead of addressing this major vulnerability, the Navy is throwing time, money and energy into a new jet-fighter program.

Not much is known about the “next generation air dominance,” or NGAD, aircraft. Official statements report that it will be a “family of systems,” perhaps a manned aircraft working with unmanned companions, and that it will feature new stealth technologies. Rumors suggest that it will be somewhat comparable to the F-14 Tomcat, made famous by the 1986 movie “Top Gun,” whose primary job was defending the carrier and other ships.

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