J-20 fleet is rising – 13 Chinese language brigades have the Mighty Dragon

The manufacturing of the J-20 fifth-generation fighter has been on a notably fast scale since 2021, completely for the Chinese language Individuals’s Liberation Army [PLA] Air Power. The J-20 is one in every of solely two fight plane from its era that’s not solely in manufacturing but in addition boasts squadron-level energy – its counterpart being the American F-35. 

Picture credit score: The Drive

The projected progress trajectory means that the supply of J-20s will skyrocket to 120 models in 2025. This spike signifies a supply price 250 p.c increased than that of the F-35 fighters to the U.S. Air Power – a major achievement provided that the J-20 is a bigger twin-engine fighter plane. 

With the growing supply of J-20s, extra PLA Air Power brigades are witnessing the addition of this stealth fighter. Eight confirmed brigades featured J-20 deployment by the top of 2022, and an extra 5 reportedly noticed them in 2023 – with two totally confirmed brigades so far.

J-20 fleet is growing - 13 Chinese brigades have the Mighty Dragon
Picture credit score: EurAsian Instances

Manufacturing is quick

It’s unimaginable, actually. The prevalence of the J-20 together with its skyrocketing manufacturing, effectively, it’s unparalleled. Whenever you go searching at different international companies, there’s merely no different fighter acquisition that may match as much as the procurement price of J-20s by the PLA Air Power. It’s fairly outstanding.

Now, for those who undertaking this ahead, we’re anticipating that by the shut of this decade, over 30 brigades will probably be proudly showcasing their stealth fighter inventories adorned with these J-20s. And contemplating the regular upswing in these manufacturing charges, it’s not a stretch to consider {that a} minimal of 4 models have already greeted the arrival of their J-20 deliveries in 2023. Fairly the sight to behold!

The 97th Air Brigade

Within the dwindling moments of December 2023, the whispers become info – two brigades, rumored to be adopting J-20s, have been the truth is beginning to take supply of those cutting-edge plane. Stationed within the Dazu Air Base close to Chengdu metropolis of Chongqing is the 97th Air Brigade, and stationed at Foshan Air Base within the neighborhood of Shenzhen, you’ll discover the 4th Air Brigade. 

The 97th Air Brigade traded in J-7E for J-20s. The J-7E, a light-weight third-generation chicken of the sky is at present within the technique of retirement, giving strategy to a squadron of J-20s, J-16s, and J-10Cs. Undeniably, the J-20s and their superior companions are snatched up shortly by the keen PLA Air Power. Undeniably one for the historical past books, the 97th Air Brigade made its mark by being the very first to interchange J-7s with J-20s.

Thrust vectoring engine: J-20 performs strong maneuvers at low speed
Picture credit score: ADN

The 4th Air Brigade

The 4th Air Brigade has seen the alternative of its baseline J-11 fighters, a variant of the Russian Su-27 produced beneath license because the mid-Nineteen Nineties, with J-20s. The strategic placement of Foshan Air Base permits J-20s to carry out air protection duties over Shenzhen and Hong Kong, extending all the way in which to the Longpo Naval Base on Hainan Island, which lies roughly 500km to the southwest. 

This base holds important army significance because it shelters the spine of the nation’s nuclear missile submarine fleet. The proximity of the bottom to Taiwan, a mere 700km away and a potential hotspot for battle, additional emphasizes the significance of this facility.

Thrust vectoring engine: J-20 performs strong maneuvers at low speed
Picture credit score: eng.chinamil.com.cn

The start was made in 2016

China’s PLA Air Power first welcomed the J-20 into their ranks in both the spring or summer season of 2016, with the Dingxin Flight Take a look at & Coaching Base’s 176th Air Brigade setting the precedent. Nearly two years later, the Cangzhou Flight Take a look at & Coaching Base’s 172nd Air Brigade – strategically situated close to the bustling cities of Tianjin and Beijing – additionally acquired these formidable plane. The fighters later landed on the Wuhu Air Base, assigned to the ninth Air Brigade. 

This explicit Air Brigade had the excellence of being the final squadron to obtain the J-20’s baseline variants, geared up with derivatives of the Russian AL-31FM, for fairly a while. It was not till January 2021 that the J-20A, a superior mannequin powered by the WS-10C engine, made its look on the Anshan Air Base to serve with the first Air Brigade.

Chinese stealth J-20 with serial number 2051 has design changes
Picture credit score: Chinese language Web

Different bases

Analysts from China have speculated that this strategic project was meant to ship a message to each Japan and South Korea: they need to chorus from turning into concerned in any potential Taiwan Strait conflicts. After the drama that unfolded originally of the yr, it wasn’t till 2022 that the fifth Air Brigade at Guilin Air Base lastly acquired their J-20s. Certainly, 2022 was a hallmark yr because it marked the primary time these mighty plane have been delivered to a number of brigades throughout the similar yr. 

In March of the yr, the sixth Air Brigade of Zhengzhou Air Base additionally obtained a praise of J-20s. Not far behind, the 111th Air Brigade in Xinjiang confirmed the arrival of their very own fleet only a month later. By August 2022, the Changxing Air Base’s eighth Air Brigade, which is strategically situated close to the Korean Peninsula, might boast its inclusion within the quickly increasing J-20 membership. 

China showed a two-seater stealth J-20 in combat camouflage
Picture credit score: South China Morning Submit

Given the supply of J-20s to 3 separate brigades in 2022, the continuation of this pattern appears fairly probably as we transfer into 2023. We are able to logically anticipate no less than 4 further deployments contemplating the spectacular progress we now have seen in manufacturing capability. Hypothesis abounds that the 97th and 4th Air Brigades are slated to be subsequent in line, with the 131st Air Brigade, primarily based on the Nanning Air Base close to Hainan, additionally probably on the record.

Unverified hosts

There’s additionally speak in regards to the forty first Air Brigade at Wuyishan Air Base and the ninety fifth Air Brigade at Lianyungang Air Base. Though unconfirmed, these brigades could be the possible recipients of those superior fifth-generation jets. Proof pointing in direction of the 131st Brigade may be gathered from the J-20 pilots’ badges, which seem to show the unit’s emblem, indicating their attainable acquisition of the plane. 

China showed a two-seater stealth J-20 in combat camouflage
Picture credit score: South China Morning Submit

The J-20, with no less than ten confirmed deployments and probably twelve or extra, is a drive to not be underestimated. Given the obtainable proof, it’s unlikely that fewer brigades will obtain the plane in 2023. Its efficiency and capabilities rank it among the many best fighters for air-to-air fight worldwide. 

With greater than double the vary of any Western fighter class and a complicated radar system far higher in dimension, the J-20 actually stands out. Furthermore, its avionics system is deemed on par with the esteemed F-35, matching in complexity and class. Due to this fact, the enlargement price and extent of the J-20’s deployment will undeniably have severe ramifications on the Pacific energy dynamics.

J-20 vs. F-22/F-35

When the J-20’s major weapons, the PL-10 and PL-15 missiles, have been first launched into service within the mid-2010s, they outshone their most important American and Russian contemporaries. Nevertheless, the U.S. Air Power has since begun to shut the efficiency hole with sporadic procurement of latest AIM-260 missiles, designed particularly to counter the J-20’s firepower. 

In a matchup with America’s single-engine F-35, which considerably underperforms in flight vary and lacks supercruise capabilities, the double-engine J-20 stands tall. Its superior flight efficiency, increased maneuverability, and talent to hold extra missiles make it a formidable drive. 

Neither the older U.S. F-22 Raptor, with its dated avionics and sensors, nor another fighter globally, is taken into account to be on par technologically with the J-20. The absence of necessary options similar to helmet-mounted sights or distributed aperture programs on the F-22 leaves it at a important drawback towards the J-20 and even the F-35.

J-20 fleet is growing - 13 Chinese brigades have the Mighty Dragon
Picture credit score: Pinterest

The J-20 evolution

The evolution of the J-20’s capabilities has been fast throughout its manufacturing cycles. Its new engine, the WS-15, just lately entered serial manufacturing in early 2023 and is predicted to start out equipping frontline models by mid-2025. This engine is about to launch the J-20 right into a new period of supercruise capabilities, probably reaching speeds exceeding Mach 2 whereas rejuvenating its efficiency throughout all pace spectrums. 

The promise of permitting for fight operations at increased altitudes past the Armstrong Restrict, coupled with enhancing the J-20’s already world-leading vary as a result of elevated gas effectivity, makes the introduction of the WS-15 eagerly anticipated.


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