BEIJING - The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLA-AF) of China has officially commissioned its very first stealth aircraft, Chengdu’s J-20 fighter, a Chinese military spokesman said September 28, making it only one of three operational stealth aircraft models in the world.
The twin-engine, single-seat jet “has been officially commissioned into military service,” Xinhua reports, citing Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian.
Per Xinhua, the “fourth-generation” medium- and long-range aircraft is still undergoing flight tests which “are being conducted as scheduled.”
Scout Warrior’s Dave Majumdar reports that China’s fourth-generation designation corresponds to what most mature air forces consider “fifth-generation” aircraft, namely the F-22 and F-35.
The F-22 Raptor went live in 2005 while the US military’s other fifth-generation aircraft, the F-35 — informally known as the ‘F-22 With a Cupholder’ — reached initial operational capability (IOC) in 2015. Technically, the F-35A US Air Force variant attained IOC in December 2016, the US Marine Corps’ short-takeoff and vertical landing variant hit IOC in December 2015, and the US Navy’s F-35C is expected to receive the IOC declaration in February 2019, according to a report for Congressional Defense Committees prepared by the F-35 Joint Program Office.
Keep in mind the US went from zero to on-the-moon in 10 years, while 20 years after Lockheed was named the prime contractor for the joint strike fighter in 1997. The jet still suffers from snafus as major as engine fires
because wind “forced hot air into the inlet” of the jet’s internal power and cooling system. Damages from wind conditions led to upwards of $50 million in needed repairs.
“The process of fifth-gen. fighters’ introduction to the U.S. Air Force was very long and painful for the US,” Vasily Kashin, senior fellow at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies in Moscow, told The National Interest. There’s “no reason to believe China would be different,” Kashin says.