The J-20 stealth fighter jet, China’s domestically developed fifth-gen aircraft, has begun training patrols in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, to safeguard China’s airspace security and maritime interests, China’s state-run media outlet, Global Times reported.
The latest move came after US Pacific Air Forces Commander General Kenneth Wilsbach revealed in mid-March that US F-35 stealth fighter jets had a close encounter with China’s J-20 stealth fighter jets over the East China Sea.
The Global Times reported that the J-20 has been conducting combat patrols in the East China Sea and alert patrols in the South China Sea after switching to domestically made engines.
The news about the J-20 patrolling was disclosed during a press conference on Tuesday by Ren Yukun, the head of the discipline inspection and supervision team and a member of the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (the J-20’s manufacturer), the report said.
Song Zhongping, a Chinese military analyst and TV commentator, told the Global Times that the J-20 will be deployed on potential battlefields and at sea, especially when US fighters like F-35 and F-22 have been operating close to China.
“Our advanced fighter jets must meet them head-on to safeguard the country’s airspace security and maritime interests,” Song said. The J-20 is an emblem of China’s technological might and air prowess, which is why it has been regularly deployed to safeguard the country’s frontiers.
When asked to respond to Wilsbach’s comments, senior Colonel Wu Qian, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense, said, “It must be emphasized that when it comes to safeguarding national sovereignty and security, the PLA will always be ready and capable of wielding its sword.”
Eye on Taiwan?
The looming invasion threat from China, as well as frequent intrusions into Taipei’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), has become a major source of concern for the island’s security. In this context, J-20 is frequently regarded as a strategically crucial facet in monitoring its enemy’s movements and enhancing Beijing’s air defense along the coast.
Wang Li, a J-20 pilot with the PLA Eastern Theater Command Air Force’s Wang Hai Air Group, revealed on March 5 that the J-20 had been used in routine maritime management and control operations, according to the latest report.
Song said the PLA’s Eastern and Southern Theater Commands are hotspots since they are critical to combat preparedness in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea. It’s unclear whether the J-20 has also been delivered to the PLA Southern Theater Command.
That is why, Song said, the sophisticated J-20 fighter jet should be commissioned as soon as possible to establish combat capabilities.
Last year, the EurAsian Times reported that China had stationed its most modern stealth fighter jet to air force units patrolling the Taiwan Strait and the East China Sea. This move was interpreted as a warning to US allies in the region, South Korea and Japan.
The deployment then highlighted China had supplied at least four aviation brigades with a total of 150 J-20 fighter jets. Over the next five years, China plans to deploy J-20s in every theater command to defend the region from “five strategic directions.”
General Charles Brown Jr., the US Air Force Chief of Staff, previously stated at an Air Force Association meeting in September last year that the PLA had “the largest aviation forces in the Pacific” and that they had grown “under our nose.” Brown also projected that by 2035, China would have surpassed the US in terms of air superiority.
PLAAF’s air power has unquestionably increased in the last few years. The Y-20, another member of China’s “20” aircraft family, recently completed a flight to transfer military cargo to Serbia, according to Global Times, with Chinese analysts claiming that it may be the largest overseas mission yet for the Chinese-developed heavy cargo plane.
Despite allegations that China transferred anti-aircraft missiles to Serbia via this flight, China praised the overall mission, highlighting the aircraft’s operational capability.
The mission’s Y-20s flew 8,000 kilometers from China to Serbia, passing over numerous NATO nations amid regional unrest, so it’s clear what problems they faced, according to Zhou Guoqian, an AVIC official, who talked to CCTV on Tuesday.
The plane, however, Zhou added, passed the test. “Our Y-20 is a very capable aircraft indeed.”