Sat, Mar 11, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Chinese stealth jet enters service: report

‘FIRST-CLASS NAVY’:A senior official said the navy would be equipped with top-tier equipment, with arms manufacturing focusing on better quantity and quality

Reuters, BEIJING

China has put into service its new-generation J-20 stealth fighter, a warplane it hopes will narrow the military gap with the US, as senior naval officers said the country was building a “first-class navy” and developing a marine corps.

In a report late on Thursday, state TV’s military channel confirmed that the J-20 has entered service, although it gave no other details.

The aircraft was shown in public for the first time in November last year at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, China, and was first glimpsed by Chinese planespotters in 2010.

However, questions remain whether the new Chinese fighter can match the radar-evading properties of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor air superiority warplane, or the latest strike jet in the US arsenal, Lockheed’s F-35.

China showed off another stealth fighter it is developing, the J-31, at the Zhuhai airshow in 2014, a show of muscle that coincided with a visit by then-US president Barack Obama for an Asia-Pacific summit.

China hopes the J-31, still in development, will compete with the US-made F-35 in the international market, according to state media reports.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has been taking an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around Taiwan and new Chinese warships popping up in far-flung places.

With US President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues, including Taiwan and the South and East China seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the US Navy.

PLAN Deputy Chief of Staff Wang Weiming (王維明) told Xinhua on the sidelines of the annual Chinese National People’s Congress that Beijing is speeding up the development of a marine corps, adding destroyers and frigates and will step up air and sea patrols.

“We will intercept any intruding aircraft and follow every military vessel in areas under our responsibility,” Wang said. “Our sailors should stay vigilant and be able to deal with emergencies at all times.”

China’s second aircraft carrier is in “good shape” and awaiting fitting, he was quoted as saying.

Experts expect it will enter service by about 2020, joining China’s Soviet-built carrier, the Liaoning.

Another senior officer, Li Yanming (厲延明), political commissar of the PLAN’s armaments department, said a “first-class navy should be equipped with first-class armaments,” the report added.

PLAN arms manufacturing would have “better quantity, quality, scope and functionality,” Li said, without elaborating.

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