China eyes closing gap with US with unveiling of J-20 stealth fighter at Zhuhai Air Show

The J-20 would assist in the air force's mission to "safeguard sovereignty and national security".

China to unveil its J-20 stealth fighter at Zhuhai Air Show
A Chinese J-20 stealth fighter in flight in Chengdu, Sichuan province. Reuters

China will unveil its new generation J-20 stealth fighter at the Airshow China 2016 to be held in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, the air force said on Friday. China hopes the advanced warplane, which will be shown to the public for the first time, will narrow the military gap with the United States.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force said in a statement on its official microblog that the demonstration flight of J-20 will be carried out during the event and it will also constitute the fighter's public debut.

Air force spokesman Shen Jinke said the production of the fighter jet was proceeding according to plan. The J-20 would assist in the air force's mission to "safeguard sovereignty and national security".

"This is the first public appearance of China's indigenously manufactured new generation stealth fighter jet," the air force told Reuters.

Authorities also added that the J-20 will improve the PLA's fighting capabilities. After looking at the photographs of the J-20, some analysts have said that China might be making faster-than-expected progress in developing a rival to Lockheed Martin's radar-evading F-22 Raptor.

The ability to project air power is one of the key elements for China. This will help Beijing as it takes on a more assertive stance on its territorial disputes with neighbouring countries in the South China and East China seas.

The Pentagon has said earlier that the fifth generation stealth aircraft which are being developed by China, including the J-20 and the J-31, are important for the nation's air force in order to evolve from a mostly territorial force to one that can carry out both offensive and defensive operations.

Apart from J-20, a new Y-20 military transport aircraft will also give a flight demonstration at the seven-day air show.

In 2014, China showed off the J-31 at the last Zhuhai air show that is held every two years and opens on Tuesday.

According to China military watchers and state media reports, China believes the J-31, which it is still developing, will be able to compete with the US-made F-35 stealth aircraft in the international market.