J-20s could also be based mostly at Luliang base

Rumblings unfold in early 2023 following unofficial experiences hinting on the supply of J-20 fifth-generation fighters to the 131st Air Brigade, stationed at Luliang Air Base, Yunnan Province, Southern Theatre Command. The Chinese language Individuals’s Liberation Army [PLA] Air Power noticed a rise in fighter deliveries in recent times, bolstering brigades nationwide. 

Picture credit score: EurAsian Occasions

In 2022 alone, affirmation was acquired that three new brigades had been outfitted with the J-20 fighters. Because of elevated manufacturing charges, it’s virtually sure that these cutting-edge plane have discovered their method to a minimum of three if not 4, extra brigades in 2023. 

Nonetheless, solely the 4th Air Brigade, based mostly at Foshan Air Base, Southern Theatre Command, and the 97th Air Brigade at Dazu Air Base in Chongqing underneath the Western Theatre Command, have been explicitly confirmed to have acquired the jets. 

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

The 131st Brigade is a doable host

Among the many three brigades suspected, however not formally confirmed, as current recipients of the J-20 fighters, the 131st Brigade appears to be the first contender. The Brigade transitioned from working J-7 light-weight third-generation fighters within the early 2010s to fortifying their unit with J-10A early fourth-generation ones from 2016 onward. The unit step by step phased out the older J-10As with extra superior J-10C ‘4+ technology’ fighters. 

As of 2024, the 131st Air Brigade reportedly nonetheless makes use of J-10C fighters, a frequent observe whereby newer jets slowly turn into the first plane till their predecessors are totally changed. This course of started round 2017, when the J-10C entered service alongside the J-20. Each the J-10C and J-20 make the most of state-of-the-art avionics and the identical main air-to-air missile lessons, PL-10 and PL-15. 

Royal Saudi AF may replace the Tornado fighter with Chengdu J-10
Picture credit score: Twitter

Although the J-10C might not pack the identical punch because the J-20, its economical manufacturing and operational prices make it a sensible selection for large-scale acquisitions aimed toward modernizing Chinese language fighter models. Whereas the J-20 was fine-tuned for serial manufacturing, the J-10C and its heavyweight counterpart, the J-16 ‘4+ technology’ fighter, have been pivotal in bringing Chinese language fighter models as much as present requirements. 

J-20 and F-35

Considered one of many world’s most succesful fighters, the J-20’s options rival these of the top-tier Western fighter, the F-35, and in some instances, surpass them. With distinctive distributed aperture methods, an expansive twin-engine framework for enhanced maneuverability, comparable however bigger radar, and double the vary with a fight radius of over 2000km, it’s a power to be reckoned with. 

Australia has shown how rapidly it can cloak its F-35 fleet
Picture by Sergeant Craig Barrett

At the moment, the J-20 stands alone as the one stealth fighter in manufacturing worldwide that may supercruise. This implies it’s designed to maintain supersonic flight over huge distances with out important gasoline consumption and with out the necessity to have interaction its engine afterburners. 

One of many strongest items of proof suggesting the 131st Air Brigade’s acquisition of J-20s is a picture of a pilot subsequent to one of many fighters sporting the Brigade’s emblem. The repositioning of high-end J-10C jets allows the Brigade to keep up a sturdy stance, albeit with decreased precedence, as they transition to utilizing the J-20s. 

As compared with world-class fighters, the J-10C emerges as a formidable adversary with huge air-to-air capabilities, outshining even the Russian Su-35 in simulated encounters and displaying talents akin to the J-16. 

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

Extremely strategic place

Nonetheless, the J-20’s longer vary and enormous sensor suite put the 131st Air Brigade in a extremely strategic place. The fighter’s capabilities enable it to take part in air protection operations throughout a significant slice of the already contested South China Sea and preserve a strong presence within the Taiwan Strait with the assistance of aerial refueling. 

If these rumors are verified, the 131st Air Brigade with its J-20 fighters would shoulder a important protecting responsibility for Longpo Air Base on Hainan Island, a potential precedence goal for Western assaults within the occasion of large-scale hostilities, on condition that it homes the spine of the PLA Navy’s strategic nuclear arsenal.


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