The PLA Air Force

The PLA Air Force is believed to have started taking delivery of the J-20 stealth fighter jet, a third-type, fifth-generation combat aircraft.

Its maiden flight was made in January 2011, and the aircraft was declassified in November last year when it performed at a defense exhibition in China. The Air Force said the J-20 is designed for future aerial combat.

Military analysts said the cutting-edge aircraft will enable the Air Force to engage all leading fighter jets, substantially improving operational capabilities.

Wang Ya'nan, editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge, said the J-20 is not only a superior fighter jet, but can also conduct air-to-ground strikes and anti-ship operations.

The Air Force has also improved its transportation capacity via the deployment of the Y-20 strategic transport plane.

With a maximum takeoff weight of about 200 tons, the Y-20 can ferry cargo and personnel over long distances in all types of weather, strengthening the Air Force's strategic power projection capability.

According to Wang, compared with transport planes made overseas, it is easier for the PLA to use and maintain the Y-20 because its design was based on the experience and requirements of the PLA Air Force.

He explained that the jumbo jet can fly more than 5,000 kilometers in eight hours, meaning it can fulfill most of the PLA's transportation needs.

The Air Force has also deployed several early-warning and aerial control planes, including the KJ-500, the latest model. The aircraft has one fixed phased-array radar and two passive electronic intelligence arrays, according to IHS Jane's Defence Weekly in London, which reported that it can track up to 100 targets simultaneously to a range of 470 km.

The Air Force also uses a wide range of unmanned aircraft such as the GJ-1 reconnaissance/strike drone and the BZK-005 high-altitude, long-range reconnaissance drone. They are expected to extend operational scope and give the PLA more options to conduct reconnaissance and land attack tasks at lower cost, experts said.

[ Editor: Liu Jiaming ]


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