China Stealth Jet Enters Service, Navy Building 'First Class' Fleet (excerpt)
(Source: Reuters; published March 9, 2017)
By Ben Blanchard
China’s J-20 stealth fighter, which is just entering service, is said to have been designed to attack US support assets, such as tankers and AWACS aircraft, at very long ranges, thus keeping US tactical aircraft at bay. (PLA-AF photo)
BEIJING --- China has put into service its new generation J-20 stealth fighter, a warplane it hopes will narrow the military gap with the United States, as senior naval officers said the country was building a "first class" navy and developing a marine corps.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is overseeing a sweeping modernization of the country's armed forces, the largest in the world, including anti-satellite missiles and advanced submarines, seeking to project power far from its shores.

In a report late on Thursday, state television's military channel confirmed that the J-20 had now entered service, though it gave no other details.

The aircraft was shown in public for the first time in November at the Zhuhai airshow and was first glimpsed by Chinese planespotters in 2010.

However, questions remain whether the new Chinese fighter can match the radar-evading properties of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor air-to-air combat jet, or the latest strike jet in the U.S. arsenal, Lockheed's F-35. The F-22, developed for the U.S. Air Force, is the J-20's closest lookalike.

China showed off another stealth fighter it's developing, the J-31, at the last Zhuhai airshow in 2014, a show of muscle that coincided with a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama for an Asia-Pacific summit.

China hopes the J-31, still in development, will compete with the U.S.-made F-35 stealth aircraft in the international market, according to state media reports.

The navy is another key focus for China. China's navy has been taking an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and new Chinese warships popping up in far-flung places.

With President Donald Trump promising a U.S. shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy. (end of excerpt)


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