China stealth fighter enters service as Beijing vows to narrow gap with U.S.

by WorldTribune Staff, March 10, 2017

As part of its ambitious military buildup aimed at narrowing the gap with the United States, China has put into service its J-20 stealth fighter and vowed to build a “first class” navy and develop a marine corps.

Chinese state television’s military channel confirmed in a March 9 report that the J-20 had now entered service, but gave no other details.

China unveiled its J-20 stealth fighter during an air show in Zhuhai on Nov. 1, 2016. /Reuters

The stealth aircraft was shown in public for the first time in November at the Zhuhai airshow. It was first seen by Chinese plane-spotters in 2010.

Military analysts question whether the J-20 can match the radar-evading properties of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor or the latest strike jet in the U.S. arsenal, Lockheed’s F-35. The F-22, developed for the U.S. Air Force, is the J-20’s closest lookalike.

China hopes another in-development stealth fighter, the J-31, will compete with the F-35. Beijing unveiled the J-31 at the Zhuhai airshow in 2014.

The navy is another key focus of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s modernization of the country’s armed forces, the largest in the world.

With U.S. President Donald Trump promising the U.S. will go on a shipbuilding spree, Wang Weiming, deputy chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, told Xinhua that China is speeding up the development of a marine corps, adding destroyers and frigates and will step up air and sea patrols.

“We will intercept any intruding aircraft and follow every military vessel in areas under our responsibility,” Wang said on March 9, Reuters reported. “Our sailors should stay vigilant and be able to deal with emergencies at all times.”

China’s first domestically-developed aircraft carrier is in “good shape” and now awaiting fitting, Wang said. Analysts say the new carrier is slated to enter service around 2020, joining China’s existing, Soviet-built carrier the Liaoning.