J-20 fighters now in every Chinese Theatre Commands, overtaking F 22 in numbers soon, making it the world's largest fifth-generation fighter force.
May 30, 2022 In May 2022
Western analysts believe that the J-20 fighter has entered service in all Chinese Theatre Commands.
This is a major milestone of the only Chinese stealth fighter, the J-20. The latest development is an indication that the Chinese Air Force has achieved a healthy combination of stealthy J-20 fighters and more traditional J-16, J-11 and J10 fighters.
China's J-20 fleet is rapidly expanding and has already reached or surpassed the size of the U.S. F-22 Raptor fleet, meaning that by the end of 2022 or mid-2023, the J-20 number could exceed 185, overtaking the number of U.S. F-22 fighters. The J-20 fighters are rumored to be deployed to seven aviation brigades so far. They are the 176th, 172nd, 9th, 1st, 5th, 56th and 111th air brigades, covering all Chinese Theatre Commands.
Some enthusiasts have speculated that by the end of 2023, at least 12 aviation brigades of the Chinese Air Force will be fielding J-20 fighters. In addition, by the end of 2025, the Chinese military will have between 285 and 360 J-20 fighters deployed to about 20 aviation brigades, making it the world's largest fifth-generation fighter force. It is worth noting that both the two-seater version of the J-20 and the upgraded variant with the WS-15 turbofan are likely to enter service around 2024, which adds more capability to the J-20 fleet.
A healthy combination of the stealth fighter and more traditional fighters are also vital in the progress of Chinese military. The first Gulf War was a good example of this. The most advanced fighters back then, the F-15 and F-16 fighters worked with the F-4 electronic warfare aircraft, forming a much more fearsome strike force.
It was only in the past two years that the PLA Air Force began to form such a capability with the H-6 bombers, KJ-500 early warning aircraft, refueling aircraft, intelligence gathering aircraft, and a few models of fighter jets. The J-20 fighter could be facing off with the F-22 and F-35 fighters.
The F-22A has been the best fighter in the world for two decades, but it would not be surprising that the J-20 has advantage in some areas. It is worth noting the Chinese military have an keen eye on the latest domestically designed J-35 medium size stealth fighter, which could be the direct competitor to the American F-35 fighter.
In terms of US, Russia and China relationship, a major development in May 2022 is that the Chinese and Russian Air Force performed a joint patrol close to Japan, when Joe Biden was in Tokyo for the Quad summit. It is widely circulated that the J-20 fighters have started Eastern China Sea patrol, having close encounter with the F-35 fighters.
This is the first time two stealth fighter jets facing off in patrol flights. In the Chinese and Russian joint patrol, China sent the H-6K bombers and J-16 fighters. Experts believed that this is the first time that China has disclosed specific information about sending fighter jets to escort the Chinese and Russian bombers.
Soon the Chinese J-20 might join in to pressure Japan, South Korea and the U.S. The J-16, together with the J-20 and J-10C, have been practicing in various drills in these few years. If the Chinese H-6K bombers and the Russia Tu-95 bombers have the J-20 as escort fighters, their long range strike capability and survivability will clearly increase to another level.
The J-20S two-seat heavy multi-role stealth fighter jet might be proved to be another key player in this multi-nation competition. It could become the airborne command center with two-man crew, working with all kinds of combat platforms to form a powerful strike force. One mission would be the escort flights to ensure the Chinese long range bombers, especially the future H-20 stealth bomber can reach Japan or even further away, striking key targets of the U.S. pacific forces.