From 3rd aircraft carrier to fighter jets: weapons to expect in 2021
Published: Dec 30, 2020 07:26 PM

The guided-missile destroyer Qiqihar (Hull 121) attached to the navy under the PLA Northern Theater Command fires its main gun at mock sea targets during a maritime live-fire training exercise in mid December, 2020. ( by Zhang Hailong)

The progress of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) in modernizing and expanding its arsenal will continue over the upcoming year after an unsettling 2020 in which recently developed equipment played major roles in protecting Chinese people from COVID-19, safeguarding national sovereignty and development interests in regions like the China-India border, the South China Sea and the Taiwan Straits.

China's third aircraft carrier, a newly developed frigate with integrated electric propulsion system, aircraft carrier-based stealth fighter jets and more could make their first appearances in 2021, military observers predict.

With China setting the centennial goal by 2027 for its military in November, urging it to modernize military theories, organizations, personnel and weapons and equipment, analysts said there is no doubt that China will continue to develop new, world-class weapons for years to come.

The construction of China's third aircraft carrier, which is widely expected to be larger than the country's current two and feature a more advanced electromagnetic catapult system, has been a focus of several media outlets. Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie told the Global Times in an interview in September that the carrier could be launched in 2021.

Citing an anonymous insider, The Diplomat magazine reported on Friday that the Type 054B frigate, a newly developed warship reportedly equipped with an integrated electric propulsion system and more advanced than the Type 054A, could "see movement" in 2021.

The report also said that between 2021 to 2025, China could procure more Type 054A frigates, Type 052D destroyers, Type 055 large destroyers, Type 071 amphibious landing ships and Type 075 amphibious assault ships, with the third Type 075 expected to be launched in the last days of 2020 or early 2021

China's new-generation fighter jet is also scheduled to make its maiden flight in 2021, according to a statement the Chinese Aeronautical Establishment released on its WeChat public account in June.

While the statement did not elaborate on the details of the new fighter jet, but based on available information, it is possible that it is a new aircraft carrier-based fighter jet developed from the FC-31, Fu Qianshao, a Chinese military aviation expert, told the Global Times.

Other aircraft, including mass-produced J-20 stealth fighter jet with domestically developed engines, could also make official public debuts in 2021, analysts predict.

Military enthusiasts are also eagerly waiting to hear news about the H-20, China's new strategic stealth bomber that has been in development for several years.

Predictions on China's new weapons and equipment development in 2021 come at the end of 2020, a year in which the tools within the PLA arsenal played key roles in protecting the Chinese people from coronavirus, deterring US provocations, safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity in the Taiwan Straits and holding off India along the border.

In a poll Global Times initiated on Friday, the most votes, more than 4,200 or about 14 percent, chose the Y-20 large transport aircraft as the top star weapon in the world in the year of 2020.

Domestically developed by China, the Y-20 conducted several batches of transport mission in sending medical personnel and goods to Wuhan in February; Later in the year, the Y-20 also conducted missions across the border for the first time and aided foreign countries with medical supplies.

Winning the second place are the anti-ship ballistic missiles the PLA launched into the South China Sea amid US aircraft carrier provocations.

In a provocative move, the US sent dual aircraft carrier strike groups to the South China Sea in July. A month later, overseas media reported that the PLA launched multiple "aircraft carrier killer" anti-ship ballistic missiles, allegedly including the DF-26 and DF-21D, into the region as a part of exercises. This effectively deterred the US provocations, analysts said at the time.

The PLA Navy's first Type 075 amphibious assault ship, which completed its maiden voyage this year, received some 3,400 votes, closely followed by China's second aircraft carrier Shandong, which sailed through the Taiwan Straits in December with more than 3,000 votes. Y-8 special mission aircraft, highlighted by their routine mission appearances in the Taiwan Straits, also won about 1,500 votes.

More than 2,800 netizens voted for the Type 15 light tank for its frequent plateau missions during border tensions between China and India.

China's military modernization has achieved significant breakthroughs in 2020, and China is already at a world-class level in terms of main battle weapons and equipment, Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times on Wednesday.