The Chinese J -20 Stealth fighter jet has entered flight tests with the Peoples Liberation Army-Air Force (PLA-AF), Chinese media reported based on images of the jet with PLA-AF squadron markings.
The Air Force announced in February 2018, that the J-20 jet which the Chinese claim to be comparable to Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor, had been commissioned into its combat troops.
On July 24, PLA-AF released the first photograph of the jet with tail number 62001 with a caption that said, "An Air Force J-20 fighter conducts real combat training.” The PLA-AF also listed out the fighter’s combat capability.
“This is the first time a J-20 has been seen with tail number beginning with the number ‘6.’ Numbers on previously seen J-20s began with a ‘7’,” according to Weihutang, a program on military affairs affiliated with China’s CCTV on Friday.
“The J-20 is already on combat duty, becoming an important new force in safeguarding China's skies,” a report published by Ordnance Industry Science Technology, a Xi'an-based periodical on the national defense industry, stated.
The article explained that according to PLA-AF’s tradition, numbers starting with ‘7’ indicate aircraft attached to a trial unit, while the ‘6’ indicates affiliation of a fighter with a combat unit under the PLA Eastern Theater Command.
The release of the photo of a J-20 with a "6" on its tail also indicates combat troops have mastered the fighter jet, Chinese analysts said.
“Training under a combat unit is different than under a trial unit. While exploring specific capabilities is likely emphasized in trial unit training, the focus of training under a combat unit includes tactical practice,” Fu Qianshao, a Chinese air defense expert, told the Global Times on Sunday.
Fu added that training syllabus and a maintenance manual have also likely been completed for the J-20, which he says “is now more sophisticated than US' F-35.”
The J-20 is listed in China's latest national defense white paper as one of the new, high-tech weapons the Chinese military has commissioned.
Fu said that the aircraft will be mass produced and further enhanced in the future. Its engines, aerodynamic design, weapons and electronics systems including radar, avionics and flight control system could be upgraded, he said.