China's domestically developed stealth fighter jet, the J-20, can now be found in all five theater commands of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), a delegate to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) said recently, with experts saying on Wednesday that more J-20s are expected to enter service to replace their outdated predecessors and better safeguard the country's sovereignty, territorial integrity and development interests.
Since the J-20's maiden flight in 2011 and the commissioning of the first aircraft of this type into the PLA in 2017, it is now active in all five theater commands across the country, said Chen Liu, a delegate to the 20th CPC National Congress from the PLA and the Armed Police Force, when he visited an exhibition themed "Forging Ahead in the New Era" at the Beijing Exhibition Center on Monday, China Central Television reported on Tuesday.
The J-20 is taking up a more and more important strategic role, said Chen, who is a J-20 pilot himself.
Chen's remarks came after Shen Jinke, a spokesperson for the PLA Air Force, said at a press conference on September 27 that China's fifth-generation fighter jet, the J-20, has been commissioned across all the eastern, southern, western, northern and central parts of China.
This means that the J-20 has likely entered service with all Eastern, Southern, Western, Northern and Central Theater Commands of the PLA, said Fu Qianshao, a Chinese military aviation expert.
It also indicates that China has produced enough J-20s to equip all theater commands with the aircraft, Fu said.
China is a vast country with widely varied environments, leading to drastically different requirements to operate and maintain aircraft. The J-20 can now adapt to all kinds of climates and geographical conditions, being able to fly at sea and on plateaus, as well as in hot and cold regions, Fu said.
The report at the 20th CPC National Congress stressed further modernizing national defense and the military and said the presence of combat forces in new domains and of new qualities will be raised. Analysts said that the J-20 is a type of weapon that fits the description of having new qualities.
Fu said that China still operates outdated third-generation fighter jets, and it's necessary that they are gradually replaced by more advanced aircraft like the J-20 in order to better safeguard the country's territorial airspace, national interests and security.
The J-20 has switched to using domestically developed engines by 2021, and it has participated in missions in the East China Sea, South China Sea and the Taiwan Straits by 2022, according to official releases by the PLA Air Force.