The twin-engine, multi-role J-20 fighter can reach speeds of 2,100km/h. It’s believed the J-20 could be deployed as a long range air-to-air fighter capable of engaging aircraft such as air tankers and intelligence reconnaissance planes used by the United States. Photo: ImageChina / Li Jianshu
China's twin-engine, multi-role J-20 fighter can reach speeds of 2,100km/h. Photo: AFP / ImageChina / Li Jianshu

China’s J-20 jet fighters are no longer being kept away from the glare of the media since they entered service in March. Quite the opposite – party mouthpieces have been creating a buzz around the nation’s indigenous fifth-generation fighters, hailed as the cachet of the Chinese military’s air defense technology and manufacturing.

State broadcaster China Central Television aired an interview of a J-20 test pilot last week, who revealed that the brand-new air-superiority fighters, developed by Chengdu Aerospace Corporation, will be primarily deployed for precise and decapitation strikes, taking advantage of their all-aspect stealth even when armed, as well as low probability of radar interception.

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A J-20 is seen in front of a hanger. Photo: CCTV

The hangar in the background of the above photo has also piqued intense interest: It appears that J-20s can be parked in an ordinary hangar rather than one with constant temperature and humidity, while the US Air Force’s multirole F-35 Lightning II fighters are very expensive to maintain as they must be kept in a highly regulated environment to protect their ultra-delicate stealth coatings.

This means J-20s are more economical and easier to manage and can respond to emergencies more quickly than F-35s, noted an observer.

It has been reported that the US and British militaries have decided to reduce the F-35’s airborne time, rather than splurging money on an aircraft that is mocked by Chinese media as “eye candy.”

Beijing-based military magazine Ordnance Industry Science and Technology has also revealed that J-20 appear to be 20.77 meters in length, featuring a long and slim fuselage, with a wingspan of 12.99 meters and merely 15 tons in empty operating weight, after analyzing photos of the fighters. Judging from these specs, the fighter will be more nimble in real combat than foreign estimates.

China unveils its J-20 stealth fighter during an air show in Zhuhai. Photo: Reuters
China unveiled its J-20 stealth fighter during an airshow in Zhuhai last year. Photo: Reuters

With its compact dimensions and airframe, the J-20 may have no limits on takeoff from or landing on the next generation of aircraft carriers, Chinese news portal Sina reports, citing a source with the Dalian Shipyard, where the construction of China’s first nuclear-powered carrier is said to have commenced.

No fewer than 20 J-20s have been delivered to the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, at a time when the Pentagon has stationed 12 F-35As at its Kadena Air Force Base in Japan’s Okinawa prefecture.

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