China air force plays up J-20 stealth strength as Taiwan tensions brew

Asia World

The report did specify the opponents in the exercise but three J-16 multirole fighters were also pictured in the report.

Beijing views Taiwan as a breakaway province to be reunified with the mainland by force if necessary, and tensions have risen between the two in recent years, with the PLA mounting regular air patrols around the self-ruled island.

The fifth-generation J-20 was developed in China and entered service in 2017.

The single-seat twin-engine fighter is the air force’s first, and so far only, heavy stealth air superiority fighter in service. Its speed and ability to evade enemy radar and advanced avionics has made it the “backbone” of China’s air strength.

It has big advantages over older generations of aircraft but has been dogged by engine development problems.

The WS-15 engine designed for the fighter has long been behind schedule, forcing the air force to use inferior engines that limit the aircraft’s performance.

The J-20s are also in short supply. Although its maker, Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group, is believed to have a production line to build about one plane a month, only around 50 are thought to have been delivered.

Powerful Dragon v Raptor: how China’s J-20 stealth fighters compare with America’s F-22s


Powerful Dragon v Raptor: how China’s J-20 stealth fighters compare with America’s F-22s

Meanwhile, the Taiwanese air force is becoming the world’s biggest operator of fourth-generation aircraft, last month placing a US$8 billion order for 66 upgraded .

The first two planes in the order are expected to be delivered in 2023 and will add to the 150 F-16A/B fighters the island bought in the 1990s.

China’s J-20s have also been spotted near the disputed border with India, where New Delhi deployed its new fourth-generation French Dassault Rafales.

India and China have engaged in the worst stand-off for decades on their Himalayan border and have sent reinforcements to the front line.

From our archive