China stealth fighter jet put into service
China has put into service its new generation J-20 stealth fighter, a warplane it hopes will narrow the military gap with the United States, as senior naval officers said the country was building a “first class” navy and developing a marine corps.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is overseeing a sweeping modernization of the country’s armed forces, the largest in the world, including anti-satellite missiles and advanced submarines, seeking to project power far from its shores.
In a report late on Thursday, state television’s military channel confirmed that the J-20 had now entered service, though it gave no other details.
The aircraft was shown in public for the first time in November at the Zhuhai airshow and was first glimpsed by Chinese planespotters in 2010.
However, questions remain over whether the new Chinese fighter can match the radar-evading properties of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor air-to-air combat jet, or the latest strike jet in the U.S. arsenal, Lockheed’s F-35.
The fighter was earlier thought to be combat ready only by 2019. But the secretive J-20 stealth fighter - a fifth-generation jet that Chinese analysts claim is on a par with the US F-22 - had entered service, an official military channel reported late on Thursday, Reuters reported.
In September, Chinese social media websites showed photos of the J-20 being deployed in southwestern Sichuan province on the Tibetan plateau - not far from the border with India.
The PLA website however then denied those reports, saying the jet was still undergoing trials and was likely to first be deployed on the plains. The PLA said then that the Tibetan plateau was an unlikely site for its first deployment as its airports weren't even ready to accommodate the fifth-generation fighter.
J-20 DEPLOYED IN TIBET?
Thursday's report did not provide details on where the fighter will likely be deployed. Last year, a photograph supposedly showing the fighter at the Daocheng Yading airport, which was shared on social media websites but not verified, had led to media reports suggesting the J-20 had been deployed in Tibet.
The Yading airport is located in Sichuan province, not in the Tibet Autonomous Region but in a prefecture bordering the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). It is China's highest airport. Much of the PLA's air force deployments aimed at India are located in five civilian and military airports in the TAR.
"It is said that J-20 will be put into service soon but the China-India border is apparently not the ideal place for its deployment. In addition, the world's highest airport there does not have a complete set of supporting facilities and such shortage will impede the function of J-20," said a report published on a website of the PLA, China Military Online, which usually carries officially-sanctioned reports and statements.
"J-20 will not be deployed in Daocheng Yading airport as the airport is too close to the border, and it is vulnerable to India's first wave hit. If India is to deploy BrahMos missile on the China-India border, then the Daocheng Yading airport will likely to become its target," the report suggested.
China's other advanced fighters, such as the Su-27 which is also used by India, and the J-10 had been modified and acclimatised to high-altitude operations, the PLA website reported. Despite China's massive infrastructure developments in Tibet, the report claimed India had been more aggressive on its border deployments, including C-130 transport planes from the US and Heron unmanned aerial vehicles, not to mention the BrahMos.
At the same time, it concluded, "India is not yet the biggest threat for China and though confrontation events along the border would occur from time to time, the overall situation is rather stable. In this way, China does not put too much emphasis and focus targeting India."
Source: BEIJING (Reuters) / (www.defencenews.in) - March 10, 2017
Photo: Chinese J-20 stealth Fighter Aircraft. China has put into service its fifth-generation J-20 stealth fighter that many experts say will give the PLA Air Force a massive firepower boost, state media reported on Thursday. (Photo by nationalinterest.org)