China Readies J-20 For F-16 Viper Showdown; PLA Admits Using Mighty Dragons For Taiwan Punishment Drills

If China’s two-day ‘Joint Sword 2024A’ military drills encircling the island of Taiwan and simulating an invasion wasn’t enough, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has now published footage of J-20 stealth fighter jets highlighting the “cross-strait” lethality of the aircraft.

The video was published by PLA’s Eastern Theatre Command, which carried out aggressive military drills around self-ruled Taiwan. The 55-second video, which is all over social media now, appears to be a compilation of different footage, including one shot from inside the cockpit.

In one frame, two J-20 aircraft can be seen taking off together. Another frame shows a pilot in the cockpit, ready for action. At 0:21 seconds, at least four of these fighters are seen flying together in a formation, with a dramatic audio playing in the background.

While all the captions seen in the video are generated in Mandarin, the first caption reads ‘cross-strait lethality’ in English. The video emphasizes the three Ss of the J-20 Mighty Dragon: Stealth, Supercruise, and Situational awareness. It states, “The J-20 has come a long way with its High stealth, Supersonic cruise, and High situational awareness.”

The video was published right after the unprecedented military drills launched by the PLA as “punishment” for new Taiwan President Lai Ching-te’s inaugural speech on May 20, in which he reiterated his commitment to Taiwanese independence and sovereignty. China has repeatedly called the new Taiwanese President a “separatist”.

The PLA has made no bones about its intention to capture Taiwan. The PLA said the drills were designed to test its ability to “seize power” over the island.

It saw joint operations of China’s army, navy, air force, and rocket force, and, for the first time, the Chinese Coast Guard, which joined the exercises around Taiwan’s frontline islands near the Chinese coast.

The J-20 Mighty Dragons, the Chinese fifth-generation stealthy jets, are projected as major assets in a potential invasion of Taiwan. Beijing maintains a fleet of more than 200 J-20 fighter jets.

PLAAF has already positioned a few J-20s in all five theatre commands. By 2026, each command will have at least one to two J-20 brigades. China has recently announced that the J-20 will be modified to carry nuclear weapons.

Last year, a PLA Air Force fighter pilot claimed that a J-20 stealth fighter aircraft flew over Taiwan’s airspace without being intercepted. Captain Yang Juncheng of the “Wang Hai” brigade of the PLA Air Force claimed that he flew over Taiwan, overseeing the entire island from his cockpit.

He said, “When flying the fighter plane, Treasure Island, of the motherland, I could see the entire coastline and mountains of the Treasure Island. At that moment, I was proud and proud [sic].”

J-20s in Action: Screengrab

The J-20, which has almost become the PLAAF’s mainstay, is believed to be electronically more advanced than other PLAAF aircraft. It is equipped with sensors to aid pilots in making the best combat and tactical decisions. The new video highlighted this, highlighting the Chinese military’s growing—and possibly now established—belief in “intelligentized combat.”

In combat, the J-20 is expected to operate like a “sniper,” using its near-invisibility to sidestep fighter screens and destroy vulnerable targets such as airborne early warning planes and air-to-air refueling tankers.

The J-20s could be lethal for the United States if it were in a potential conflict with China over the Strait. Military pundits watching the developments unfold have not ruled out the possibility of a war with the US.

The J-20 fighters are often pitted against the US Air Force stealth jets, the F-22 Raptors and F-35 Lightning II. General Kenneth S. Wilsbach, the head of Pacific Air Forces, observed last year that while “China has done some good copying,” with a large portion of the technology incorporated in the J-20 being stolen from the US, it was still no match for its US counterparts.

Resurgence Of F-22 – US Air Force Gets ‘Super Stealthy’ Raptors Close To China To Fight J-20 Mighty Dragons

However, China’s latest video may be a warning to the US and more to the Taiwanese Air Force, which recently released footage of its F-16 Viper fighter jets intercepting Chinese combat aircraft in its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).

China Is Going After Taiwan’s Air Force Too

In what may be the first such instance, the Republic of China Air Force (RoCAF) or the Taiwanese Air Force released visuals from Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense. Among the visuals is an overhead view of an Air Force F-16V fighter jet outfitted with two AIM-120 medium-range missiles and two AIM-9 short-range missiles, responding to the alert patrols of Chinese military aircraft.

The Ministry of National Defense of Taiwan published videos showing the interception of a H-6K bomber and a J-16 fighter. The footage was purportedly captured by the AN/AAQ-33 Sniper pods of the F-16 Viper, the most advanced variant of the combat-hardened F-16 Fighting Falcon acquired from the United States.

Chinese military analysts retaliated by pointing out to state-owned Global Times that the act was self-deception and that the ability to see did not mean the ability to defeat. “We are showing them our capabilities, so, normally, we let them ‘monitor,'” the expert said, downplaying the capabilities of the Viper.

F-16V firing Maverick Missiles: Screenshot

The state media report quoted an anonymous Taiwanese fighter pilot saying that the island’s air force has been overloaded with emergency sorties, all-night maintenance, and midnight training sessions.

The pilot said that since Lai’s remarks on May 20 and the PLA’s drills, Taiwan’s flight crews have been overworked and are aware that this will eventually become the norm.

“Since this year, many pilots on the team have asked to retire. Some young pilots are even willing to pay the NT$3 million ($93,000) compensation fee to leave,” the Taiwan Air Force pilot said.

After Taiwan published the footage from its F-16V, several Chinese propagandists noted on social media that the island’s air force would be annihilated in a battle. Some went on to say that all airfields and bases and other infrastructure needed for jet operations would be destroyed as soon as the invasion was launched.

The Taiwanese Air Force continues to rely on its advanced fighter jets and ground-based air defense systems to avert an invasion attempt. Social media is currently flooded with reports that the island will receive 66 F-16Vs from the US in the coming months, further bolstering its air power against Chinese forces.