The single-seat, twinjet, all-weather, stealth fifth-generation fighter aircraft developed by Chengdu Aerospace Corporation from China is to be commissioned for South China Sea patrol. The fighter jet officially entered military service in September, and was put through its combat paces over nine days of drills with less-advanced J-16 and J-10C fighters last month.
“The stealth jets will improve the air force’s comprehensive fighting ability and enable it to better safeguard China’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity,” Shen Jinke, spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force, is quoted as saying by Xinhua.
The Chinese first flew the twin-engine J-20 in 2011, and it was introduced to the public during a flyby at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, near Hong Kong, in November 2016.
The thrust-to-weight ratio of the original WS-10 engine was only 7.5, while that of the WS-10B tops out at about nine. The thrust-to-weight ratio of the all-direction, vector turbofan WS-15 Emei engine is more than 10 – one of the basic requirements for giving the J-20 “supercruise” ability.
China Central Television boasted last year that the performance of the WS-15 had matched that of the F119, with a documentary aired in May claiming the WS-15 engines would be widely used in the J-20 by 2020.
US officials have also played down the challenge of the Chinese J-20s to what has long been regarded as US dominance in Asia-Pacific skies. “When I hear about F-35 vs. J-20, it’s almost an irrelevant comparison,” US Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in August 2016, according to a report from BreakingDefense.
Russia has refused to export its most advanced engines to China because they are the core technology of its aviation industry. That prompted China to develop an indigenous alternative, the WS-15, as part of its drive towards producing one of the world’s most advanced combat aircraft.