Shenyang J-16 tandem-seat, twinjet, multirole strike fighter is an unauthorised copy of Sukhoi-Su27

The J-16D electronic warfare aircraft belonging to the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force has recently entered combat training, and it is expected to conduct seamless, accompanying operations with the J-20 stealth fighter jet in moves with the potential to generate tremendous combat efficiency, experts said on Saturday.

Shortly after its debut at Air Show China 2021 held in Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong Province in late September and early October, the J-16D has been deployed in real combat-oriented drills, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Saturday, citing sources from the PLA Air Force.

Being deployed in real combat-oriented drills means the J-16D has begun to form a combat capability after the PLA Air Force gains familiarity with the new aircraft, a Chinese military expert told the Global Times on Saturday, requesting anonymity.

It will be ready for combat soon, if not already, the expert said.

Specialized in electronic warfare, the J-16D is the latest class of domestically developed J-16 fighter jet. It is expected to accompany other warplanes seamlessly and enhance the PLA Air Force's capabilities in carrying out missions under informatized situation by establishing a complete aviation electronic warfare system.

The J-16, from which the J-16D is derived, is a twin-seat, twin engine heavy fighter jet domestically developed in China. As a multirole fighter that excels at both offense and defence, it enjoys significant advantages in terms of the fire control system, radar and operation systems compared with other warplanes previously commissioned by the PLA Air Force.

The biggest difference between the J-16D and the original J-16 is that the J-16D can carry a wider range of equipment, including the small pods on the aircraft's wingtips and the large pods under the aircraft's wings and belly, CCTV quoted Chinese military expert Wang Mingzhi as saying.

These pods, containing electronic surveillance, communications disruption and radar jamming devices, are the J-16D's main battle equipment, in addition to the J-16's original capabilities as a fighter, including air-to-air missiles, making the aircraft particularly powerful, Wang Mingzhi said.

In real combat situations, electronic warfare aircraft like the J-16D can accompany other warplanes and provide them with electronic warfare support, for example, conducting electronic jamming or deception, Wang Ya'nan, the chief editor of Beijing-based Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told the Global Times in a previous interview.

They can also launch direct attacks on hostile radar installations or early warning aircraft, Wang Ya'nan said.

Among all other warplanes, the J-16D can join hands with China's most advanced J-20 stealth fighter jet, CCTV reported.

Wang Mingzhi said that, both the J-16D and the J-20 are designed to disrupt hostile radar assets. While the J-16D suppresses radars, the J-20 evades them.

When the two aircraft team up, it would bring tremendous combat efficiency, and such a combination will definitely come in handy in future battlefields, Wang Mingzhi opined.

J-16 fighter jets have been frequent participants in PLA exercises near the island of Taiwan over the past year, according to the island's defence authorities.

Since electronic warfare is a crucial part in modern warfare, it will not be a surprise if the J-16D also joins similar drills in the future, experts said.