China Shows Off J-20 Stealth Jet for First Time

A pair of J-20 stealth fighter jets fly at the China's International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, China's Guangdong province, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016. (Chinatopix Via AP)A pair of J-20 stealth fighter jets fly at the China's International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, China's Guangdong province, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016. (Chinatopix Via AP)

Another stealth jet has come out to play.

The Chinese military for the first time publicly debuted two of its Chengdu J-20 stealth jets on Tuesday at an airshow over coastal city Zhuhai.

The Chinese jet’s sleek performance and air capability is said to rival U.S. F-22 Raptors as well as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is coming online next year in neighboring Pacific countries such as Japan.

The J-20, which made its first flight in 2011, is expected to have both short- and long-range air-to-air missiles. Its maximum speed has been widely debated, but is said to reach roughly 1,300 miles per hour.

Like the F-22, officials tout its radar-evading technologies. But it may not have the same stealth finesse as its fifth-generation fighter counterparts in the West.

“The J-20 is undeniably less stealthy,” wrote Justin Bronk, a research fellow for combat air power and technology in the military sciences program at the Royal United Services Institute in London.

In an Op-Ed published on CNN.com on Tuesday, Bronk continued, “The forward-mounted canards, poorly shielded engines and underside vertical stabilizers all limit the amount that its radar cross section — which determines how visible the aircraft is to a radar — can be reduced.”

What the J-20 does bring, however, is a game-changing enhancement for the Chinese military on a worldwide stage — something that could worry its Pacific neighbors.

The Chengdu Aerospace Corporation-manufactured jet will not likely be operational until 2018.

Russia has also been swift to procure and test fifth-generation-like aircraft in light of the F-35’s initial operating capability, which it achieved in August.

Russia’s Sukhoi T-50 lies “somewhere between the F-22 and F-35,” according to Doug Barrie, senior air analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Barrie told Air Force Times in July that even though the T-50 has the sophisticated agility of a future fighter, it will not be as advanced as the most capable U.S. platforms, such as the F-22.

The Russian government hopes to receive its new fighters in 2017.

In August, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said the budding foreign platforms, such as the J-20, are an apples-to-oranges comparison with U.S. technology.

“It’s about a family of systems and it’s about a network, and that’s what gives us an asymmetric advantage,” Goldfein said during a state of the Air Force briefing alongside Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James at the Pentagon.

“So that’s why, when I hear about an F-35 versus J-20, it’s almost an irrelevant comparison because you really got to think about a network versus a network.”

About the Author

Oriana Pawlyk
Oriana Pawlyk is a reporter for Military.com. She can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.