Last week, Beijing’s fifth-generation stealth jets displayed a dazzling fifteen-minute performance at Airshow China 2018. The jets wowed more than 20,000 spectators by performing combat maneuvers in Zhuhai, South China’s Guangdong Province.
Two of the four J-20 stealth jets opened their missile bay doors during the presentation, according to new images in a South China Morning Post report. Each plane showed four medium- and long-range missiles in its central bays and a short-range missile on both sides of the aircraft.
In a Xinhua video, the stunning performance lasted roughly one minute, as the stealth jets showed thousands of spectators the exotic weapons mounted inside the bays.
Xu Anxiang, deputy commander of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, said the demonstration last week indicates that the J-20 “has the initial operational capability.”
However, it remains a mystery whether the J-20 is capable of launching missiles in high-speed flight.
“The capability to open bay doors during a high-speed fly-past is still a challenging and advanced technology and capability, because even Russia’s new-generation Su-57 stealth fighter jet is still incapable of doing it,” a military insider who requested anonymity told the South China Morning Post.
The report specifies that only the US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II stealth jets are the only fifth-generation jets to be combat proven with opening missile bay doors and launch capabilities at high-speed flight.
The Global Times, citing Chinese military experts, said “the move displayed the J-20’s superiority” over America’s stealth jets, and increased the confidence of the People’s Liberation Army to safeguard the South China Sea with high-tech planes, a move that has Washington worried.
Chinese experts also said the F-22 is outdated technology and the F-35 is full of defects. Song Zhongping, previously commented that “the J-20 will engage with rivals in the future who dare to provoke China in the air,” which means there is a strong possibility that fifth-generation stealth jets from China and the US could fight it out over the South China Sea.
While the J-20 has participated in war games, the plane, unlike its American counterparts, has never seen actual combat.
The plane does not meet all requirements for a true fifth-generation fighter, and its inferior engine technology is a massive drag on performance. The aircraft is expected to receive a new engine, but it remains unreliable in static tests, indicating, for now, the J-20 relies on Russia for its engine technology.
It seems China has somewhat mastered the field of cutting-edge aviation technology that was once dominated by the US. It is only a matter of time before the J-20 receives a new engine and is deployed across the South China Sea.