As tensions mount over the South China Sea shipping corridor which handles $5 trillion in annual trade, China has finally rolled out its Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter jet which some have compared to the United States' F-22 Raptor.
The new jet is rumored to have already been deployed to the South China Sea along with several of China's Su-35s, to take part in a joint combat patrol over the region, according to the Chinese Ministry of Defense whose release did not mention the J-20.
The fourth-generation medium and long-range fighter jet made it's maiden flight in 2011 and was first shown to the public at a November, 2016 air show in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province.
A spokesman for the People's Liberation Army (PLO), Shen Jinke, said that the J-20 would "help the air force better shoulder the sacred mission of safeguarding national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity," adding that the air force was in the middle of a modernization program in order to fight enemies on all fronts.
While the jet's combat service was announced on Friday, the J-20 was officially entered military service last September - and conducted nine days of drills along with older J-16 and J-10C fighters last month, according to the air force.
The J-20 was designed for stealth and manoeuvrability and is powered by two jet engines, giving it extra power as well as the ability to survive engine failure, according to the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
The US Naval Institute said the aircraft was likely to be a serious threat to US aircraft, ships and bases, because the PLA might be able to put more of them into the sky. -scmp.com
Senior analyst at the Australia Strategic Policy Institute, Malcom Davis, told Business Insider that the J-20 is a "fundamentally different sort of aircraft than the F-35"
Davis characterized the J-20 as "high-speed, long-range, not quite as stealthy (as US fifth-gen aircraft), but [the Chinese] clearly don't see that as important." According to Davis, the J-20 is "not a fighter, but an interceptor and a strike aircraft" that doesn't seek to contend with US jets in air-to-air battles.
Instead, "the Chinese are recognizing they can attack critical airborne support systems like AWACS (airborne early warning and control systems) and refueling planes so they can't do their job," Davis said. "If you can force the tankers back, then the F-35s and other platforms aren't sufficient because they can't reach their target."
Retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula agrees. In a November assessment for Defense & Aerospace Report, Davis said "The J-20, in particular, is different than the F-22 in the context that, if you take a look and analyze the design, it may have some significant low-observable capabilities on the front end, but not all aspects — nor is it built as a dogfighter," adding "But quite frankly, the biggest concern is its design to carry long-range weapons."
A senior scientist at Lockheed told Business Insider that China made serious missteps in their attempt to integrate stealth into the J-20.
"It's apparent from looking at many pictures of the aircraft that the designers don't fully understand all the concepts of LO design," said the scientist.