China puts J-20 stealth jets into Air Force combat service
On February 9, 2018, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force confirmed that the country’s J-20 stealth fighters - Chinese fifth generation medium and long-range fighter jets - have been commissioned into air force combat service.
A PLA Air Force spokesperson revealed that the Air Force made a “steady progress” in training the J-20 pilots and the stealth fighter played a “vital role” during the Chinese military Red Sword exercise in 2017, reported Xinhua.
Developed by Chengdu Aerospace Corporation for the PLA Air Force, the J-20 is single-seat, twinjet, all-weather, stealth fifth-generation fighter aircraft. The J-20 – often described by comparison to Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor and F-35s – made its maiden flight in 2011 and was publically presented in 2016 during the international Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in China.
After its first public appearance in November 2016, some experts greeted the new fighter jet as a counterpart to Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor, while more sceptical specialists pointed to the reported difficulty China had in developing next generation engines.
Now, as the J-20 is declared operational, China becomes the second country in the world (after the U.S.) that has developed an operational fifth generation stealth fighter, the National Interest writes, also reminding that Russia is lagging behind the two with its Sukhoi Su-57 PAK-FA currently under development.
Although regarded as a game-changer of US and Japan’s monopoly in Asia-Pacific region by Chinese state media and a new dimension in China-India air force balance, which is yet to acquire the stealth fighter, some analysts urge to remain restrained towards the achievement by reminding that it can take years before an initial operational capability is turned into a full operational capability.