71 military aircraft celebrate CPC centennial
Largest J-20 stealth fighter formation, chopper show Chinese aviation devt
Published: Jul 01, 2021 12:40 PM
Photo:Li Hao/GT

Photo:Li Hao/GT

A total of 71 top Chinese military aircraft, including a large formation of J-20 stealth fighter jets and a new type of large helicopter, joined the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on Thursday in Beijing by delivering an aerial performance that experts said reflected the Chinese military’s adherence to the absolute leadership of the Party and the rapid development of China’s aviation industry under the Party’s leadership.

Spearheading the aerial formations, a new type of helicopter dubbed by military observers as the Z-8L made its first public aerial performance, flew past Tiananmen Square hoisting a CPC flag, with two Z-10 attack helicopters flying in a same formation. Four more Z-8Ls followed in a second formation.

Twenty-nine Z-10 and Z-19 attack helicopters in the third formation went into a formation representing the number “100,” and a 10-aircraft J-10 fighter jet formation from the August 1 Aerobatic Team representing “71,” or July 1, the birthday of the CPC, soared past in the sky.

Then came 15 J-20s, five each in three V-shaped formations, with a group of 10 K-8 trainer jets from the Red Eagle Aerobatic Team wrapping up the aerial performance by leaving long streams of colored smoke behind.

All of the participating aircraft are domestically developed and advanced, reflecting the rapid development and the achievements of China’s aviation industry under the leadership of the Party, Fu Qianshao, a Chinese military aviation expert, told the Global Times on Thursday.

With the advanced warplanes, the Chinese military will be able to better safeguard the country, Fu said.

The performance by China’s new military aircraft at the CPC centennial celebrations showed the Chinese military’s adherence to the absolute leadership of the Party, analysts said.

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, said at the ceremony that China will elevate its armed forces to world-class standards so that "we are equipped with greater capacity and more reliable means for safeguarding our national sovereignty, security, and development interests," the Xinhua News Agency reported on Thursday.

"We must accelerate the modernization of national defense and the armed forces," said Xi, also Chinese president and chairman of the Central Military Commission.

The people's military is a strong pillar for safeguarding the socialist country and preserving national dignity, and a powerful force for protecting regional and world peace, he noted.

A press conference on the preparations for the anniversary held in Beijing in March announced that there were no plans for a military parade, and the troops would safeguard the country's peace and stability as usual.

The aerial performance on Thursday served as a grand opening to the celebration ceremony, and was not a military parade, analysts said.

It is different from a military parade since no ground troops or equipment were inspected, and the scale was much smaller, Fu said.

Aerial performances are a way to celebrate the historic CPC centennial but also a thrifty way compared to a full scale military parade, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Thursday.

One of the biggest highlights of the aerial performance was the large formation of J-20 stealth fighter jets and the aerial debut of the Z-8L, observers said.

This marks the largest number of J-20s among all of its aerial performances, including air shows and parades, observers said, noting that the previous record was five, at the National Day military parade on October 1, 2019, also in Beijing.

A total of 15 J-20s flying together is unprecedented and amazing to behold, Fu said.

It indicates that the J-20 is becoming technologically mature and has entered mass production, with more units beginning to commission the aircraft, Fu said.

There could be some additional J-20s that served as unused substitutes for the aerial performance, and there must also be more J-20s that did not participate in the event, as they were needed in routine training and combat missions, Fu said. "From this, we can image that China now has a pretty large fleet of J-20s."

In 2020, the US military had more than 500 stealth warplanes including fighters and bombers, with countries like Japan, South Korea and Australia also acquiring US-developed F-35 fighters, while China only had about 40 stealth fighter jets, US media outlet Forbes said in a report in July 2020. These numbers are expected to have increased over the past year, analysts said.

China has not revealed the size of its stealth warplane fleet, but the PLA is expected to continue to receive delivery of J-20s and other advanced warplanes in the future in order to fulfill its duties facing complicated external situations, experts said.

The Z-8L was domestically developed based on the original Z-8 helicopter, and fills a missing piece in the PLA’s arsenal thanks to its heavier weight and larger internal space, analysts said.

The Z-8L has a wider body, so it can accommodate an all-terrain assault vehicle within its cabin in addition to combat personnel, Song said.

This means a significant increase to the PLA's frontline transport and fast-reaction combat capability, Song said.

The Z-8L is the PLA's first 15-ton class helicopter, Beijing-based Aerospace Knowledge magazine reported. By comparison, the original Z-8 belongs to the 13-ton class, and another new PLA helicopter, the Z-20, belongs to the 10-ton class.

Aviation forces of not only the Army, but also of the Navy and Air Force, could use the new helicopter for heavy lifting, analysts said, noting that the Z-8L could join amphibious assault missions by operating on the PLA Navy's Type 075 amphibious assault ships.

In a part of the "Great Journey" performance to celebrate the CPC centenary at the National Stadium in Beijing, weapons including Type 99A heavy main battle tanks and Type 15 light tanks were featured on the stage, according to a China Central Television report on Tuesday.
The two types of tanks are the PLA Army’s main combat equipment and are of world-class, Song said.
Weapons like the J-20 and Type 99A represent the rapid development of China’s arms industry and the country’s innovation capability in military technologies, Song said. “The more advanced Chinese weapons and equipment are, the stronger the Chinese military’s capability is to defend China’s core interests.”

Resolving the Taiwan question and realizing China's complete reunification is a historic mission and an unshakable commitment of the CPC, Xi said at the ceremony.

"We must take resolute action to utterly defeat any attempt toward 'Taiwan independence,' and work together to create a bright future for national rejuvenation," Xi said.

No one should underestimate the great resolve, the strong will, and the extraordinary ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity, he stressed