Does China’s 131st Air Brigade Now Deploy J-20 Fifth Era Fighters? New Unit Optimum For South China Sea Operations

Amid a surge in deliveries of J-20 fifth era fighters to brigades throughout the Chinese language Individuals’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Pressure, unconfirmed studies from early 2023 indicated that the 131st Air Brigade based mostly at Luliang Air Base, Yunnan Province, Southern Theatre Command had obtained the brand new plane. J-20s have been confirmed to have been delivered to 3 new brigades in 2022, with the rise in manufacturing which means it was nearly sure that not less than three and sure 4 new brigades obtained the plane in 2023. Solely two, nevertheless, have been totally confirmed – particularly the 4th Air Brigade based mostly at Foshan Air Base underneath the Southern Theatre Command and the 97th Air Brigade at Dazu Air Base in Chongqing underneath the Western Theatre Command. Of three brigades suspected however not confirmed to have obtained the fighters, the 131st was probably the most extensively reported to have executed so. Th unit had within the early 2010s operated J-7 light-weight third era fighters, a category which has quickly been phased out of service since then, earlier than changing these with J-10A early fourth era fighters kind 2016. These have been phased out and changed with J-10C ‘4+ era’ fighters from 2016.

Though as of early 2024 the 131st Air Brigade is reported to nonetheless be working J-10C fighters, that is frequent for items receiving new lessons of fighters till sufficient of the brand new plane are delivered to totally section their predecessors out of service. The J-10C entered service in parallel to the J-20 in 2017 and deploys equally superior avionics and the identical main air to air missile lessons the PL-10 and PL-15. Its operational and manufacturing prices are very significantly decrease, nevertheless, permitting it to be acquired on a big scale to convey Chinese language fighter items as much as a leading edge customary. Investments within the J-10C and its heavyweight counterpart the J-16 ‘4+ era’ fighter supplied a useful technique of modernising Chinese language fighter items because the J-20 program matured till it was prepared for serial manufacturing on a bigger scale from 2021. The J-20 is in lots of respects the world’s general most succesful fighter, with avionics on par with the highest Western fighter the F-35 together with distinctive options similar to distributed aperture methods, that are paired with a a lot bigger twin engine airframe offering far larger manoeuvrability, a bigger radar of comparable sophistication, and greater than double the vary with a fight radius of over 2000km. The J-20 is at present in the one stealth fighter in manufacturing worldwide able to tremendous cruise – which means it could actually fly supersonically with out utilizing its engine afterburners and thus maintain supersonic flight over lengthy distances with out excessive gas consumption. 

One of the vital notable indications that the 131st Air Brigade has obtained J-20s was the picture of an unknown pilot with one of many fighters carrying what gave the impression to be a logo of the air brigade. With the J-10C nonetheless being among the many PLA’s prime fighter lessons, receipt of J-20s will end result within the reallocation of those plane to a location that’s of barely low precedence however nonetheless vital. The J-10C is among the most succesful fighters lessons on the earth by way of its air to air efficiency, and has comfortably surpassed the Russian Su-35 in simulated engagements whereas proving an in depth match and profitable marginal victories over the J-16. The J-20’s for much longer vary and much bigger sensor suite, nevertheless, will permit the 131st Air Brigade to contribute to air defence throughout a lot of the contested South China Sea, and with a single spherical of aerial refuelling to additionally function for prolonged durations within the Taiwan Strait. If confirmed, the deployment will characterize one of many furthest south for the fighter class and facilitate air defence duties over Longpo Air Base on Hainan Island, which homes the spine of the PLA Navy’s strategic nuclear arsenal and is anticipated to be a precedence goal for Western air assaults within the occasion of full scale hostilities. 

Supply hyperlink