China is Showing the Public What Its J-20 Stealth Fighter Can Do: Last Friday, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) kicked off its “open day event” as part of the Changchun Air Show in the city of Changchun in Northeast China’s Jilin Province. State media outlets have described the air show as “a visual feast for military fans,” including aerial stunts and tactical demonstrations of some of the most advanced Chinese aircraft.
Most notably, the J-20 “Mighty Dragon” stealth fighter was given its moment in the spotlight along with the Y-20 large transport that recently entered service with the PLAFF. In addition, this marked the first appearance of the YU-20 as a static display.
“YU-20 is an advanced large-scale aerial refueling aircraft that’s been built by combining Y-20 large aircraft and aerial refueling technology. It has played an important role in improving the long-range attack and defense and long-range delivery capabilities of the Air Force. It helps our military to fly further to perform tasks,” explained Chinese military expert Wang Mingzhi to China Global Television Network (CGTN).
Both the Y-20 and YU-20 have been touted as crucial to China’s territorial integrity and interests in places like the island of Taiwan and the South China Sea.
This year’s Changchun Air Show has a total of six indoor exhibition halls, in addition to outdoor exhibition zones for the PLAAF weaponry and equipment and general aviation aircraft. The total exhibition area covers 140,000 square meters, hitting a record high.
The air show, which is scheduled to continue until Tuesday, also featured a number of aerial demonstrations of the J-20 fighter jet. It was the first such public demonstration of the aircraft and was meant to highly the subsonic maneuverability of the fifth-generation stealth aircraft.
House of the Dragon?
Li Debing, the pilot who flew the J-20 at the event, said at a press conference following the demonstration that the J-20’s flight performance was not only beautiful to watch but was also very combat-oriented, as it reflected the aircraft’s technical performance and posed huge challenges to the pilot’s mental stamina, skills, and handling of the aircraft.
The PLAAF, along with Chinese aviation experts, has been touting the capabilities of the Mighty Dragon throughout this summer. In addition, many media outlets have compared the capabilities of the J-20 to the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, which likely served at as inspiration for the Chinese-made fighter. Of course, hackers likely working at the behest of Beijing may have helped provide crucial F-22 details that were used on the Mighty Dragon’s development.
That could also explain why most western observers quickly suggest that while the J-20 reportedly has a greater ranger, the Raptor is largely seen as the superior of the two. Though the J-20 was seen performing “outstanding horizontal and vertical maneuverability” at the recent air show, it is still likely merely a copy of arguably the best air superiority fighter ever to take to the sky.
Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.