China is now working harder on its Mighty Dragon, J-20 stealth fighter jet production to come against the U.S.’s air-power technology in the region.
“The increased production of J-20s was aimed at balancing the United States’ increasing deployment of its dominant air-superiority aircraft, the F-22, and another fifth-generation stealth jet fighter, the F-35, to the region,” said a military insider.
“The application of the new pulsating production lines and domestic engines had pushed the number of J-20s to equal, or even exceed, the number of US F-22 Raptors.”
It can be guessed from this month’s air show in Zhuhai, Guangdong province that China may have constructed at least 200 J-20s.
Fu Qianshao, a retired equipment specialist at PLA’s Air Force says:
“China never announces the exact number of its warplanes, but I believe the combat capability of the J-20 is on par with the F-22, and even more advanced than the F-35, given it was designed and developed in the new century,” he claimed.
However, a U.S. expert is of a different opinion.
Since the PLA, unlike the U.S. Air Force and Navy, does not have systematic joint operations between different fighting wings, Stephen Burgess, a professor in the department of international security studies at the U.S. Air War College, believes it is premature to say anything about the J-20’s potential air superiority.
“Air superiority of [the PLA] over China – possibly. Over the western Pacific – questionable,” he said.
“There are several variables to take into account – pilots, network-centric warfare, aerial refueling, the technological advantages of the F-22 and the U.S. Navy’s F-35C, etc.”
“Now both CAIG and other state-owned aircraft developers have all adopted the technology to produce their jet fighters,” said Zhou.
“That’s why the PLA has been able to step up its warplane replacement progress in recent years.”
The cost of a J-20 reaches approximately US$110 million to construct, which is less than half the price of an F-22 Raptor, according to a report published on the PLA’s social media account in 2018.
The KJ-500 early-warning aircraft for the PLA was manufactured by Shaanxi Aircraft Corporation on thumping production lines at Asia’s largest aircraft facility in Hanzhong, Shaanxi province.
Seven years after Lockheed Martin released video clips of their use at its F-35 factory, it was the first time China had confirmed the use of pulsating manufacturing lines.
142 F-35s were delivered last year due to the effects of the Covid-19 epidemic, and 156 are expected this year, according to Lockheed Martin’s annual report.
The defense company once boasted that its inventive production method could build 300 F-35s a year at maximum capacity.