China is flying its indigenous stealth fighter jets, the infamous J-20, in all five theatre commands. Senior Colonel Shen Jinke said the J-20 fifth-generation fighters are operating in the east, south, west, north, and central theatre commands. He also said they are increasingly used by the forces. Beijing has deployed the stealth fighter in the East China Sea, the South China Sea, and the Taiwan Strait.
Shen, at a press conference promoting the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition to be held in November, said the domestically made J-20, J-16, B-6K bomber, and YY-20 (tanker aircraft) flew in the Taiwan Strait. He highlighted that the aircraft has strengthened China's ability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The US is Watching Closely
Charles Q. Brown, the US Air Force Chief of Staff, said China's growing fleet of J-20 stealth fighters is nothing to lose sleep over. "But I am gonna pay attention to it." General Kenneth Wilsbach, head of Pacific Air Forces, said they are watching them closely and seeing how they felt and how they operate them.
He added that the Air Force has had limited opportunity to assess the J-20. "After some recent close engagements we had with our 5th gen jets and some of their J-20s in the Pacific region, the Air Force learned a lot from that, but it is nothing frankly that I would worry too much about."
In March, Wilsbach had said they were relatively impressed with the command and control associated with the J-20. He noted that some of China's very long-range air-to-air missile are aided by that KJ-500. This highlights the important stride the Chinese have made in the development and fielding of increasingly advanced air-to-air missiles in recent years.
The US Air Force has time and again expressed concerns about new Chinese air-to-air missile developments. Moreover, it publicly said they were a major factor in the decision to initiate work on the US military's own next-generation AIM-260 Joint Advanced Tactical Missile (JATM).
China's Mighty Dragon vs. US's 5th Gen Fighter Jets
The Mighty Dragon Chengdu J-20 is touted as the major breakthrough for Chinese military development. The stealthy twin-engine fighter aircraft is only the fourth 5th generation fighter in the world. It is capable of making it at the very least a near-peer to America's F-22 and F-35, and to Russia's Su-57.
By deploying the aircraft in contested regions of East and South China Seas, Beijing indicates its confidence in the full operational capabilities of the jet. Moreover, the technology behind the Mighty Dragon seems to rival the US 5th generation fighter jets. Experts say the fuselage shape, engine intake shape, exhaust nozzle shape, and the paint design mirror is a copy of the F-22 and F-35.
Before the breakthrough of J-20, China used Russian parts and designs to construct its military equipment. As such, Beijing relied on Russian-made engine systems for the new jet, but went onto produce its own engines – the WS-15, marking a milestone and a major boost for China's aircraft development capabilities.