The J-20 stealth fighter has been using a stop-gap engine

Last week, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force inducted Chengdu J-20s (NATO: Black Eagle) with its Second Ace Force. Apart from Second Ace Force, Wang Hai Air Group has been operating the J-20s since 2019. The J-20 made its first test flight in 2011, its debut at Air Show China (at Zhuhai) in 2016, and entered military service in 2017.

Developed by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG), the J-20 is a single-seat, twinjet, all-weather multirole stealth fighter, which is considered China’s answer to the fifth-generation fighter jets like the Lockheed Martin stealthy pair of F-35 Lightning II and F-22 Raptors. Kept under tight secrecy, the J-20 achieved its maiden flight on January 11, 2011, while US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates was in China on an official visit. Taking him by surprise, he later admitted that US intelligence agencies underestimated China's ability to develop a new-generation fighter

The plane has four weapons bays. Two small bays on the sides of the engine intakes can accommodate short-range air-to-air missiles, namely the PL-10, which can engage off-boresight targets. The two larger bays beneath the fuselage have been photographed carrying a total of four long-range air-to-air missiles such as active radar-guided PL-15 - estimated range of 134nm (250km). Other than that, the J-20 also has four external hardpoints that can carry additional ordnance or fuel tanks. There is online speculation that the J-20 may also have a cannon. However, arguably the greatest enhancement will be Xian WS-15 engines, for which the J-20 was specifically designed for maximum manoeuvrability and super cruising (sustained supersonic flight).

As per the latest reports; at least 40 J-20s have been produced so far, but certainly no more than 60-70. It is alleged that CAC set up a fourth J-20 production line in 2019, each line able to produce one fighter per month. At this rate, the J-20 should approach the total production numbers of the American F-22 by 2027. This would amount to at least 200 fighters, making it the world's second-most common stealth fighter behind the F-35.

The list of J-20 deployments;

172nd Air Brigade at Cangzhou Air Base (Non-combat unit: operational evaluation and tactical training)

176th Air Brigade at Dingxin Air Base (Non-combat unit: operational evaluation and tactical training)

9th Air Brigade of 3rd Air Division at Wuhu Air Base/Quzhou Air Base in the Eastern Theater Command - 2018/19 (Combat unit)