China’s new elite stealth fighter ripped across the sky in its first public appearance at a major international air show Tuesday.
Two Chengdu J-20 fighter jets flown by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s Bayi Aerobatic Team, put on an impressive performance at the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong, CNN revealed. The J-20 is said to be China’s response to America’s F-22 Hornet and F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
“The J -20 aircraft is China’s own new generation stealth fighter, developed to meet the needs of the future battleground,” said PLAAF spokesman Shen Jinke at a Chinese press conference in October. “The aircraft will further enhance the overall combat capability of the Air Force, which would help the army’s sacred mission of maintaining the national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity.”
China’s new stealth fighter offers long-range offensive capabilities designed to transform China into a major Pacific power.
Chinese netizens praised the new aircraft, stating, “The J-20 is a sharp sword to defend our country and protect our people.”
The J-20 is reportedly based on stolen F-22 and F-35 data from a breach a few years ago.
“China has been extremely active in stealing design information for many years,” Justin Bronk, a Royal United Services Institute research fellow, told NBC News, “It’s a Chinese strategy to steal what they can and reverse engineer it.”
Su Bin, a Chinese businessman living in the U.S., confessed earlier this year to working with two Chinese agents to steal information on the F-22 and F-35, as well as a number of other aircraft and defense projects, between 2008 and 2014. China is accused of stealing engine and radar information, as well as general plans.
Even if China did build its J-20 using stolen American technology, the U.S. may still have the advantage.
“It’s no longer about a single aircraft, it’s about a family of systems and it’s about a network, and that’s what gives us an asymmetric advantage,” Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein said in August, according to NBC News.
The F-35 relies on the Naval Integrated Fire Control Counter Air (NIFC-CA) battle network, which downplays the jet’s dogfighting abilities and uses it as a long-range stealth spotter for distant projectile-weapons systems. China does not have the same comprehensive network capabilities to use the J-20 in the same way. “That’s why when I hear about an F-35 versus J-20, it’s almost an irrelevant comparison,” Goldfein noted.
Furthermore, China’s J-20 is likely to be much slower and less stealthy than its American counterparts. The fighter’s ability to conduct strikes at long range is its greatest feature. But, what China lacks in quality, it makes up for in quantity. China should be able to put far more J-20s in the sky than the U.S. can F-35s once it standardizes production, and it should be able to do so at a faster pace and for less money.
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