A senior U.S. Air Force general said U.S. F-35 stealth fighters recently had close contact with the PLA’s latest J-20 stealth aircraft over the East China Sea, and they “impressed” U.S. pilots.
“Our F-35s got relatively close to the J-20 over the East China Sea, we were impressed with the command and control that was associated with the J-20,” said General Kenneth Wilsbach, commander of the US Pacific Air Force, noting that Chinese pilots “fly the J-20 pretty well.” The announcement was made during a video conference at the Mitchell Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics of the American Air Force Association.
As per General Kenneth, the U.S. command is trying to understand the main purpose of the latest PLA combat aircraft – performing various types of tasks like the F-35 or gaining air superiority with the ability to strike ground targets like the F-22.
In addition, he was impressed by the Chinese ability to detect the F-35 early, but it remains unclear whether the Chinese pilots managed to detect the enemy using the J-20 airborne radar or whether this was due to mainland air defense data since it probably happened relatively close to the coast.
Back in June 2021, the Chinese side reported that the J-20 regularly protects the rights of the PRC in the airspace over the Diaoyu Islands (also known by the Japanese name Senkaku) and regular patrolling of the air defense identification zone in the East China Sea.
On March 5, a story about J-20 patrol missions over the coastal regions of China was shown on television.
Chinese media note that the most modern fighters are used here not only to confront the Japanese or Taiwanese Air Forces but also against the American F-22 and F-35 fifth-generation fighters.
Recently, the latest U.S. Air Force fighters have been repeatedly seen on the island of Guam, on the Japanese archipelago of Okinawa, on other major Japanese islands, as well as in South Korea.
This is probably evidence of the creation of an arc around the borders of the PRC for a covert strike using a large number of stealth aircraft.
In 2013, it was reported that Chinese radars were capable of detecting F-22s at a distance of several hundred kilometres. The latest incident shows that the F-35 is also detectable by the PLA Air Force and Air Defense.
J-20, the recent developments
The two-seat version of the Chinese fifth-generation J-20 fighter will receive powerful electronic warfare (E.W.) system and will be able to control slave unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as a result of which it will become a “real nightmare” for the enemy, wrote the South China Morning Post in April 2021, citing Chinese journal Ordnance Industry Science Technology.
In January, the Chinese media reported that the flight tests of the long-awaited WS-15 engine have begun despite pessimistic forecasts that it will not enter service before 2025. Developed by the Shenyang Aircraft Engine Research Institute, the WS-15 turbofan will be manufactured by Xian Aeroengine Corporation and is expected to have better fuel efficiency and much more power than its predecessor. The new engine will provide the J-20 with much greater endurance and superior flight performance. The WS-15 engine is expected to make the J-20 the world’s leading fighter and interceptor in terms of thrust output, at least until the first sixth-generation aircraft arrive.