Chinese PLA Sorties J-20 Stealth Fighters to Counter US F-35s in East China Sea

Chinese military recently sortied its J-20 stealth fighters to counter US F-35 in the East China Sea and had close encounters with American jets.

General Kenneth Wilsbach, Commander of the US Pacific Air Forces, on Tuesday said: "We recently had - I wouldn't call it an engagement - where we got relatively close to the J-20s along with our F-35s in the East China Sea, and we're relatively impressed with the command and control that was associated with the J-20."

China Airshow 2016
China unveils its J-20 stealth fighter. Reuters

PLA Early Warning Systems Alert China

It appears that US F-35s first entered China's East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone and were picked up by PLA early warning systems, a Chinese military expert told the Global Times on Thursday. The expert believed that upon detection, the PLA Air Force sortied the J-20s as part of their routine response.

So far, the Chinese air force has not commented on the matter publicly. But an air force pilot in early March had revealed that he had participated in a routine mission that involved J-20.

Pilot affiliated to the Western Command had revealed on CCTV channel that he participated in control missions with the J-20,endorsing a possibility that the mission could be linked to the East China Sea incident.

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

US Air Force Carried Out Attack Simulation

Hu Bo, director of the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI), believes that the background of such incident is likely that the US Air Force was carrying out an attack simulation or other kinds of exercises targeting China and the PLA, on the other hand, grasped the US activities and flew its aircraft.

General Wilsbach had also underlined that Washington is still trying to figure out whether the J-20 is more like an F-35 that is capable of carrying out multiple types of missions, or more like an F-22 that is primarily an air superiority fighter that has an air-to-ground capability.