Four in a Row: China’s Stealth Fighter Fleet Grows Again

Fighter on a Truck: Wrapped in a tarp, the second J-31 prototype leaves Shenyang, on an escorted convoy for specialized testing (since the wings are completely integrated into the fuselage, it’s too wide to be shipped by train or air). | =GT at China Defense Forum


In July 2016, the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation rolled out two more low rate initial production (LRIP) J-20 stealth fighters. This brings to a total of four J-20 fighters built for service into the Chinese air force, as opposed to the original eight J-20 prototypes, which are still undergoing a rigorous flight testing regimen. At this rate of production, China may have 12 production J-20 ready to hand off to a PLAAF squadron for operational and flight familiarization, with an initial operating capability (IOC — meaning those fighters can conduct combat operations) in 2017-2018.

The two newest J-20 fighters are painted with a very dark grey paint job, along with new low visibility PLAAF insignias on the lower fuselage, beneath the wings. If the J-20 meets its 2017-2018 IOC target date, it will give China a technological edge in air to air combat over all its Asian neighbors, who do not yet have 5th generation planes. As a heavyweight stealth fighter, it is armed with long range missiles, electronic warfare, advanced radar and passive sensors, making it a respectable competitor to even the new US F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters. CAC is already planning a series of future updates to keep the J-20 state of art; domestic WS-15 engines are just one of them.

With two stealth fighters soon to enter service, China is making another critical step in becoming a 21st century air superpower. And as Chinese defense exports grow, the J-20 and J-31 could start making the rounds at foreign airshows, and possibly even in foreign air forces.

Full article: Four in a Row: China’s Stealth Fighter Fleet Grows Again (Popular Science)

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