Why China displayed J-20 fighter jets at unprecedented scale during Communist Party's centenary celebration

As China's Communist Party celebrated its centenary celebrations today, the PLA unleashed swarms of J-20 fighter jets at an unprecedented scale on Thursday.

J-20 stealth fighters soar during Communist Party's centenary celebration

As China's Communist Party celebrated its centenary celebrations today, the PLA unleashed swarms of J-20 fighter jets at an unprecedented scale on Thursday.

According to China's state-run Global Times, fifteen J-20 stealth fighters soared past Beijing skies in formation during the Communist Party of China's (CPC) centenary celebrations.

The event marked the largest number of warplanes exhibited by the Chinese Air Force in a single event for the general public. China has reportedly started mass production of its most sophisticated fighter jet.

The last time the J-20 fighters took to the skies in such a large formation was in 2019 during the National Day parade, however, at that time only 5 J-20 aircraft took to the skies.

(Photograph:AFP)

China's stealth fighter strength

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force had earlier announced that its Military Development Vanguard Air Group now had the J-20 fighter.

According to China's Global Times quoting Forbes, China had only 40 stealth fighter jets until last year but the US had 500 stealth planes.

China is now vying to catch up with the big powers as it joins the race to produce more fighters. It is still unknown how many warplanes the Communist country still possesses or its production capacity limit at the moment.

The country had unveiled its new stealth fighter jet, the J-20, the first radar-evading combat aircraft, during one of the many test runs at the military airbase in Chengdu, southwest China's Sichuan province in January 2011.

A test flight of China's new stealth fighter jet on January 11 overshadowed a US bid to shore up uneasy military relations, underscoring a growing rivalry between the two powers.

(Photograph:AFP)

Rafale vs J-20 during India-China standoff

According to reports, China had deployed J-20 stealth fighter jets  200 miles from Ladakh airbase. Satellite images in mid-August showed two jets at Hotan amid the India-China standoff in eastern Ladakh.

Reports said the India Air Force had deployed Su-30 MKI, MiG-29, and MiG-29K fighters with the Rafale stationed at Ambala airbase which is just 200 km from the China border.

The Chinese J-20 is touted to be the most advanced fighter jet in the Dragon's arsenal with advanced long-range strike capability with sophisticated artificial intelligence capability.

(Photograph:AFP)

'Moment Indian Rafales were brought in, their J-20 was there'

In fact, India's air chief  RKS Bhadauria had said last year that China had brought their J-20 fighter aircraft to areas close to eastern Ladakh.

"The moment Indian Rafales were brought in, their J-20 was there," India's air chief had said.

In 2019, the IAF had issued an RFI (request for information) to acquire 114 jets which was billed as one of the world's biggest military procurements in recent years. The top contenders for the deal included Lockheed's F-21, Boeing's F/A-18, Dassault Aviation's Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Russian aircraft MiG 35 and Saab's Gripen.

India had received the first batch of five Rafale aircraft in July last year which was inducted in September, 2020 at the Ambala air base in the 17 ‘Golden Arrows’ squadron.

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Black Eagle

NATO calls the J-20 aircraft "Black Eagle", reports say the front portion resembles the F-22 Raptor and the rear section Sukhoi T-50. A Russian company has denied reports that it has given stealth technology to Chengdu J-20 fighter aircraft.

China's fighter jet has PL-12C/D and PL-21 air-to-air missiles (AAM) including PL-10 short-range AAM.

The J-20 can reportedly climb at the rate of 304m/s with a maximum speed of 2,100km/h. The single-seater fighter jet has been manufactured by China's Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG).

A major controversy had erupted after China's J-20 designer Yang Wei had said that China's fighter was "inspired" by American theories on air combat.

(Photograph:AFP)

Rafale's arsenal

A report published in Global Times quoted Zhang Xuefeng, a military expert saying: "In some combat performance areas, the Rafale is superior to the Su-30 MKI fighter jets, which are in service in the Indian air force in large batches, but it is only about one-fourth of a generation more advanced and does not yield a significant qualitative change."

"The Rafale is comparable to other third-plus generation fighter jets used by other countries, but it will find it very difficult to confront a stealth-capable fourth-generation fighter jet," he further said.

It is clearly China's threat perception on display. The fact is Rafale's are capable of carrying a range of potent weapons. European missile maker MBDA's Meteor air-to-air missile and Scalp cruise missile are the mainstay of its weapons package.

Meteor is a next generation beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) designed to revolutionise air-to-air combat. The weapon has been developed by MBDA to combat common threats facing the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden.

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J-20's long range air-to-air missiles

In 2018,  two J-20 fighter jets opened their missile bay doors during a flypast revealing that each jet had four missiles in its fuselage and one on either side of the aircraft.

Global Times at that time had said the demonstration, which came on the 69th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) Air Force, displayed the J-20's superiority to the top US fighter jets, the F-22 and F-35, as well as the PLA's growing confidence.

The Chinese mouthpiece quoted a military expert Song Zhongping as saying the four missiles in the J-20's fuselage were long-range air-to-air missiles, while the two on the sides were short-range combat missiles meant for aerial combat.

(Photograph:AFP)

J-20 eyes Taiwan

Reports say China has reportedly used the J-20 fighters during its repeated incursion into Taiwan's airspace as tension mounts between the US and China over its relations with Taipei.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter had passed through the eastern theatre command with Taiwan in its perimeter in July 2019.

Amid reports of mass prouction of the J-20s, the United States had announced that it has approved the sale of 105 F-35 stealth aircraft to Japan for an estimated $23.11 billion even as Taiwan unveiled a new locally-built training jet amid growing tensions with China.

Taiwan lives with the constant threat of invasion by China which views the self-ruled island as part of its territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary.

Taiwan reportedly has some 300 fighter jets, all in service since the 1990s, including US-made F-16s, French-made Mirage 2000s and the locally developed indigenous defensive fighters.

(Photograph:AFP)

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