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China's push to modernize its military (2017)
02:26 - Source: CNN

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J-20 is China's twin-engine stealth fighter

J-20 seen as China's answer to US F-35 and F-22 fighters

CNN  — 

China says its newest stealth fighter is combat-ready.

Posts on both the website of the People’s Liberation Army and the official Xinhua news agency said the J-20 fourth-generation fighter had been armed and officially commissioned into China’s air force.

Long touted as China’s answer to US F-22 and F-35 stealth fighter jets, analysts say the J-20 is intended to fulfill two roles, air-to-air combat and ground attack.

“The stealth jets will improve the air force’s comprehensive fighting ability and enable it to better safeguard China’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity,” Shen Jinke, spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force, is quoted as saying by Xinhua.

A report last year from the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies suggests the J-20 could be used to strike enemy airfields and command centers in the ground attack role.

The report also points out that if long-range air-to-air missile are mounted on the J-20, it could threaten key components of the US air fleet, such as aerial refueling tankers and early warning and command and control aircraft.

In a post on the PLA’s English-language website, Chinese military expert Song Zongping said the J-20 will “engage with rivals in the future who dare to provoke China in the air.”

The post goes on to claim that the arrival of the J-20 will change the balance of air power in the Asia-Pacific region. “In the past, only the US and its allies like Japan were capable of arming stealth fighter jets. But now, their monopoly in this region has been broken by China’s J-20.”

China first flew the twin-engine J-20 in 2011, and it was introduced to the public during a flyby at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, near Hong Kong, in November 2016.

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China shows off new J-20 stealth fighter (2016)
00:48 - Source: CCTV

US challenge

The US’ own stealth fighter jets have been deployed to the Pacific over the course of the last 12 months, with both the Air Force and Marine Corps versions of the single-engine F-35 operating out of US bases in Japan.