SOURCE: THOMAS D’SOUZA / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Chinese military spokesman confirmed that China’s first stealth fighter J-20 has officially entered service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force thus becoming third stealth fighter to enter service with any air force, after the F-22A Raptor and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
J-20 made its first official first flight in 2011 and made into People’s Liberation Army Air Force one year before assessment made by Pentagon which had told its government that it will become operational by end of 2018 but Defence experts are still skeptical if the aircraft is fully operational at squadron level.
Chinese state-owned media off lately have intensively written how it is superior to its existing lineup of jets like 4.5 generation fighter jets like Sukhoi Su-30 Flanker, Shenyang J-11 Flanker or the Boeing F-15 Eagle or F/A-18 Hornet but have restrained them selfs from making a direct comparison to American F-22A Raptor and the F-35 stealth fighters.
Development of J-20 commenced in late 90’s when People’s Liberation Army Air Force demanded Twin engine fighter jet in the class of Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker with the incorporation of Stealth technology. Even though J-20 is a large Heavy Class aircraft, but the design makes it look like it is more optimised for Ground attack roles more than Air Superiority roles.
China’s recent purchase of limited units of Sukhoi Su-35 from Russia suggests that Chinese unlicensed copies of flankers have yet to reach high level of sophistication expected in a 4.5 generation fighter jets and thus it can be presumed that J-20 is still a learning curve for People’s Liberation Army Air Force when it comes to development of 5th generation aircraft which also requires 5th generation of avionics, sensors, and radar along with more modern engines.
J-20 is China’s first attempt in developing a stealth fighter jet and it is also well known and established fact that China is yet to reach technological level of western countries in terms of the development of avionics and sensor package to make J-20 truly a 5th generation fighter aircraft.
With J-20 Chinese have got basic stealth aspect right with the design and it is expected that future variants like J-20B/C/D will keep on evolving for next decade or more till it gets all the elements which make any fighter a true stealth 5th generation fighter jet.
J-20 a threat to India?
J-20 due to its massive range and weapons carrying capacity, when deployed near India border will be able to reach many of the cities in India’s eastern sector with ease, which just scales up the threat level to India’s eastern sector which predominately has poor Air Defence System coverage along with not so high-tech radar grids to detect radar-evading aircraft like J-20.
India has been systematical improving its Air Defence coverage in the region but it will also need to field Counter-Stealth Long-range radars to improve its detection capabilities.