By Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer
In July 2016, the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation rolled out two more low rate initial production (LRIP) J-20 stealth fighters. This brings to a total of four J-20 fighters built for service into the Chinese air force, as opposed to the original eight J-20 prototypes, which are still undergoing a rigorous flight testing regimen. At this rate of production, China may have 12 production J-20 ready to hand off to a PLAAF squadron for operational and flight familiarization, with an initial operating capability (IOC — meaning those fighters can conduct combat operations) in 2017-2018.
The two newest J-20 fighters are painted with a very dark grey paint job, along with new low visibility PLAAF insignias on the lower fuselage, beneath the wings. If the J-20 meets its 2017-2018 IOC target date, it will give China a technological edge in air to air combat over all its Asian neighbors, who do not yet have 5th generation planes. As a heavyweight stealth fighter, it is armed with long range missiles, electronic warfare, advanced radar and passive sensors, making it a respectable competitor to even the new US F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters. CAC is already planning a series of future updates to keep the J-20 state of art; domestic WS-15 engines are just one of them. Read more