Chinese fifth-generation J-20 fighter. Photo: PLA Daily
Chinese fifth-generation J-20 fighter. Photo: PLA Daily

Has China’s fifth-generation fighter the J-20 just accomplished a top-secret reconnaissance of the ongoing war game Vigilant Ace between the United States and South Korea, totally undetected by either military?

According to Chinese news portal Sina, yes. Evidence?

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) said on its Weibo account on Monday that its reconnaissance aircraft, during a scheduled training exercise, took off from an airbase in northern China and flew routes they had not taken before, “to places they had never been before.”

Some military observers in China believe these planes traversed South Korean airspace above the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea. Yet what is interesting is the fact that Seoul has been silent so far.

The war game between US and South Korea, Vigilant Ace, involves some 230 warplanes from the two militaries. Photo: Arirang TV

Some speculate that Korean radar must have failed to track Chinese reconnaissance planes tasked to gather intelligence on the joint drill, for which Pentagon has marshaled its ace warplanes including F-22s to the Korean Peninsula.

“If that’s the case, then the only Chinese plane that was so stealthy that [it] could come and go totally undetected must be the J-20,” one commentator said.

“One or two J-20s may have flown with the group, which first headed to the East China Sea in a freedom-of-navigation patrol, but the fighter then turned northeast and pierced Seoul’s airspace, taking advantage of its cutting-edge stealth coating without triggering any alarm on Seoul’s radars.”

Other sources suggest that the PLAAF has started deploying a small batch of J-20s, which just entered service this year, at its key airbase in Cangzhou, in the northern province of Hebei.

Cangzhou borders the Bohai Sea across Korea Bay as well as the west coast of the Korean Peninsula, but is secure enough as it’s guarded by China’s Shandong and Liaodong peninsulas.

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