The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force has brought more J-20 stealth fighters into service, as part of a “second ace force”. Perhaps of even bigger note, the planes have been equipped with engines made in China, according to a report by Global Times.
The jet is now part of the Military Development Vanguard Air Group, according to the report. The J-20s undertook an aerial performance with other jets, some of which were J-16s and J-10s, at a PLA Air Force event this week.
The Wang Hai Air Group previously was equipped with the J-20 jets and has been since the fall of 2019. The plane, which first flew a test flight in 2011, began military service in 2017.
“My unit is now flying the most advanced domestically developed warplanes, and we will practice hard to make the best of them, hone our confidence and determination to fight and win, and live up to the expectations by the Party and people,” Shi Yunjia, a J-20 pilot, said, in a China Central Television (CCTV) report cited by Global Times.
The J-20 is part of what is considered the fifth generation of stealth fighters, joining the F-22 and F-35, both of which are American jets, as well as Russia’s Su-57 Felon. China also operates the FC-31, another fifth-generation fighter.
Earlier this month and over the last several years various outlets looked at if the J-20 jets were actually ready to fight in a military conflict.
“While a highly capable aircraft, the J-20 has had numerous issues, and China has struggled to build sufficiently powerful enough engines for the aircraft. Earlier this year it was reported that China had even opted to employ a foreign design made by Russia,” explained prolific author and analyst Peter Suciu wrote. “That may give the J-20 the added boost it needs, and the aircraft will likely become more capable as time goes on. Another factor however is the number of J-20s that are in service, but it is believed that Beijing has at least 50 of the stealth aircraft.”
That piece also added that in recent skirmishes between China and India, “India’s Air Force chief boasted that the Rafale was more advanced than the J-20 while China fired back that its aircraft is the superior fighter.”
Another recent report indicated that the J-20 may have a “secret weapon,” in the form of a 2D thrust vectoring nozzle for its engine.
“While 3D nozzles are often believed to be capable of providing more thrust angles than 2D nozzles, as F-22’s 2D nozzles can only move vertically – Fu said this is a common misunderstanding of how these work in practice. The 2D nozzles can also move horizontally to provide horizontal thrust, but such designs can add to the development costs,” the report said.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.