China's People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has been conducting real-combat scenario training with J-20, J-16 and J-10C fighter jets dubbed "three musketeers of the sky," for the first time.
In a video released by the PLAAF on Sunday, two J-20s, two J-16s and one J-10C can be seen flying in a combat formation. The combination of one J-20, one J-16 and one J-10C was reportedly tested in 2018.
"This is an indication that the Wang Hai Air Group's J-20 jets are making smooth progress in the air force, as their service has entered a new stage of comprehensive combat capability," military experts were quoted as saying by Global Times.
"The Air Force has been exploring tactics with the J-20 and other fighter jets in previous mock competitive training and has gained some experience in acquiring air superiority, land attack and sea attack," Air defense expert Fu Qianshao said Monday.
While the J-20 is more advanced than the J-16 and J-10C, they share advanced technologies like avionics and active electronically scanned array radars, said Fu.
The J-16, the least stealthy of the three, can lead an attack and openly use radar to detect targets and attract enemy attention, while the stealthy J-20s can lurk nearby and launch surprise missile attacks when hostile targets engage the J-16, Fu said, noting that the J-10C, when equipped with the domestically developed thrust vector control engine, will excel at close-quarters dogfights thanks to super maneuverability.
Another tactic is to first have the J-20 destroy hostile strategic hubs, including early warning aircraft and aerial tankers, using their stealth capability, and then the heavily loaded J-16 can strike enemy ground forces including mobile radar stations as the J-10C takes over air supremacy, experts told the Global Times.
"The J-20 has a kaleidoscope of tactics to fulfill their missions and more mock combat exercises should be conducted. Electronic warfare aircraft could also accompany the J-20 in future," Fu added.
The J-20 made its first test flight in 2011, its public debut at Airshow China 2016 and entered military service in 2017.