China’s J-20B stealth fighter has entered mass production after receiving thrust vector controls, and with better maneuverability, it has made its way to the list of fifth-generation fighter jets.
“The moment was marked at a ceremonial unveiling of the modified J-20B jet on July 8. Mass production of the aircraft started on the same day. It has finally become a complete stealth fighter jet, with its agility meeting the original criteria,” Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported citing a military source on Sunday.
One of the biggest modifications include equipping the jet with sophisticated new thrust vector control (TVC), that will significantly enhance its maneuverability by redirection of engine thrust.
The event was attended by many senior military leaders including Central Military Commission (CMC) vice-chairman General Zhang Youxia. Zhang is tasked with overseeing weapons development for the People’s Liberation Army at CMC.
The J-20B will continue to run fitted with Russian Saturn AL-31 engine until China’s development of WS-15 engine is complete. “The Chinese engine designed for the J-20s still failed to meet requirements, but its development is going quite smoothly. It may be ready in the next one or two years,” the source added.
China was thought to have built about 50 J-20s by the end of 2019, but problems with the jets’ engines delayed further production plans.
Last year, Fu Qianshao, a military expert, had told Global Times that the J-20’s engines, aerodynamic design, weapons and electronics systems including radar, avionics and flight control system could be upgraded.
The J-20 jet is believed to be a copycat design of the American F-35 fifth-generation fighter defined by stealth technology, supersonic cruising speed, super manoeuvrability and highly integrated avionics. J-20 and F-35 aircraft share many similarities- stealth features, shape and placement of sensor systems, and ability to carry weapons on external pylons.
“The launch of the J-20B means this aircraft now is a formal fifth-generation fighter jet,” the military source stated further. The source added that manufacturer Chengdu Aerospace Corporation has received “heavy orders” for these fighters from the PLA.