A little known fact is that China, realizing the limits of even America’s most modern tactical fighters, has converted HUNDREDS of aging F-7 (MiG-21 Copy) fighter into attack drones. In an opening volley during a conflict over Taiwan, China would flood America’s and Taiwan’s air defense networks with hundreds of fighter targets, layered amongst cruise missiles and modern multirole attack aircraft. China knows its a numbers game against the US, with super high-tech but limited assets available, and seeing as a single AIM-120 costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, we would spend our missiles on throw away drones instead of valuable modern fighters. Even with NCTR (Non Cooperative Target Recognition) and other identification friend or foe systems, the call would have to be made NOT to attack the flood of incoming drones even though their deadly payloads would be highly destructive and are in effect low tech and crude cruise missiles.
I find it amazing how China can game things out and find unique tactical and strategic loopholes to exploit against the current American order of battle. F-22 pilots are often heard saying that if they could have one wish it would be more missiles. Once again I ask the USAF to give it to them via an F/B-22 with a much higher fuel fraction, payload and similar avionics as the F-35, in particular the Distributive Aperture System for much better situational awareness and cueing of high off boresight missiles without maneuvering. The only other option would be to give the F-22 and the F-15GE a stealth UAV companion that can act as an arsenal ship, packed with missiles to be targeted and fired remotely by the fighter pilot. Literally these UAVs could loiter at high altitude, radio silent and send missiles down as needed, then autonomously return to base when they run low on fuel. These UAVs could even be cued to fire from command assets like AWACS and Aegis equipped navy vessels. Bottom line, our shrinking air superiority fleet needs more ammo to even compete in a conflict such as one over the skies of the Taiwan Strait. Even 100 F-22s, 100 F-15 Golden Eagles and 100 Super Hornets in theater would have a very hard time with hundreds of cruise missiles, drones, and fighter and attack aircraft rising like a Tsunami off the East Coast of mainland China. Its time for America to get real and come up with some effective solutions to this looming threat.