CHINA / MILITARY
China's J-20 stealth fighters with domestic engines dazzle crowd at Airshow China opening
Published: Sep 28, 2021 10:01 PM Updated: Sep 29, 2021 12:38 AM
The 13th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, or Airshow China 2021, kicks off in Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong Province, on Tuesday. Photo:

The 13th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, or Airshow China 2021, kicks off in Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong Province, on Tuesday. Photo: VCG

The Red Falcon Air Demonstration Team of the People's Liberation Army Air Force conducts an aerial performance at the opening ceremony of the 13th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, or Airshow China 2021, in Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong Province on Tuesday. China's J-20 stealth fighter jets with domestically made engines also made their debut at the airshow. Photo: Xinhua

The Red Falcon Air Demonstration Team of the People's Liberation Army Air Force conducts an aerial performance at the opening ceremony of the 13th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, or Airshow China 2021, in Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong Province on Tuesday. China's J-20 stealth fighter jets with domestically made engines also made their debut at the airshow. Photo: Xinhua


The 13th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, or Airshow China 2021, kicked off in Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong Province, on Tuesday, with dazzling aerial performances, highlighted by two J-20 stealth aircraft making their debut with domestically built engines. 

Thousands of guests, visitors and journalists came to the airshow on the first day under strict epidemic prevention measures. Due to the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic, there were fewer foreign exhibitors, guests and international journalists at the show this year, but nevertheless the audiences worldwide were able to find surprises, with key information and strategic plans related to China's most advanced aerial weapons and equipment, including the latest developments on the J-20 stealth fighter jet, the long-rumored H-20 strategic stealth bomber and a series of cutting edge drones announced for the first time.  

People gathered at the event site early Tuesday despite temperatures pushing up to 30 C and high humidity, waiting to watch the aerial performances, especially that by the J-20. 

After a performance of spectacular maneuvers by six J-10 fighter jets of the August 1st Aerobatics Team of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force that led the aerial performance session of the opening ceremony, two J-20 fighter jets appeared from the clouds.

Photo: Cui Meng/GT

J-20 jets, China's most advanced stealth fighter jets powered by domestic engines, made their debut at the opening ceremony of the China Airshow 2021 in the host city Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong Province on Tuesday. Photo: Cui Meng/GT

They conducted a fly-by of the air show from only about 100 meters above the ground, then one soared into the sky, while the other turned back and performed a tight spiral maneuver before vanishing into the clouds, leaving spectators yearning for more.

Following the J-20s, a JL-10 advanced trainer jet put up an outstanding performance, including challenging maneuvers like the tail slide.

Aircraft including K-8 trainer jets from the PLA Air Force Aviation University's Red Eagle Aerobatics Team and the Wing Loong II armed reconnaissance drone also performed on Tuesday. This is also the first time a large drone has made a flight performance at the Airshow China, indicating Chinese drone's reliability, analysts said.

Although the weather was not desirable, with clouds in the sky, the aircraft completed excellent performances with no surprises, spectators and observers said.

Shu Yu, a media industry employee who attended the air show for the first time, told the Global Times on Tuesday that she was very excited to be there, especially because it was being held while the world was still haunted by the severe COVID-19 pandemic. "It demonstrates to the world not only the most advanced technology of China but also China's successful control of the epidemic," Shu said.

Immediately after the opening event, the PLA Air Force confirmed that J-20 fighter jets involved in the flight performance on Tuesday have already been fitted with domestically built engines.

Senior Colonel Li Jikuan, commander of the J-20s' flight performance, said at a press conference at the air show on Tuesday that the aerobatic moves that J-20 made this time showed the outstanding performance of the aircraft at low altitude and high speed, performing tight turns and under large flight angles.

"This is the first time the J-20 has performed in public after it was fitted with domestically built engines," Li said. 

Song Zhonping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Tuesday that switching to Chinese engines means the J-20 is now completely domestically made, and this will significantly contribute to the mass production and the performance boost of the aircraft.

Photo: Cui Meng/GT

J-20 jets, China's most advanced stealth fighter jets powered by domestic engines, made their debut at the opening ceremony of the China Airshow 2021 in the host city Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong Province on Tuesday. Photo: Cui Meng/GT



The J-20 did not show too much of its super-maneuverability potential, and this was probably due to the weather conditions, Song said.

Yang Wei, chief designer of the J-20, also said at a press conference on Tuesday that the flight performance on Tuesday was just a "modest show" as the J-20s did not show off their full capabilities. 

Nevertheless, the two J-20s showcased some of the most practical maneuvers in real combat scenarios, as these moves would allow the aircraft to better lock on targets with missiles, Zhang Xuefeng, a Chinese military expert, told the Global Times on Tuesday at the air show.

Zhang said that the domestically built engines can likely provide more powerful thrust to the J-20, which will help it in continued maneuvering in combat and also in supersonic cruise.

With serrated nozzles, the new engines will improve the J-20's stealth capability, since such a design can reflect radar waves to some tight angles, and this will reduce the detection range of hostile radars on the J-20, Zhang said.



Photo:Cui Meng/GT

Photo:Cui Meng/GT



H-20? Dream will 'come true'



On the development of China's "20" aircraft family, Yang, also vice president of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), told the Global Times at the Tuesday press conference that the "20" series not only includes the J-20 fighter jet, the Y-20 transport plane and the Z-20 utility helicopter, it also includes newly developed aircraft including the improved types of the J-16 and J-10 fighter jets, as well as a series of drones.

Inside the AVIC exhibition hall at the air show, the J-20, Y-20 and Z-20 aircraft were displayed together with the GJ-11 stealth armed reconnaissance drone at a giant rotary table, with China's second stealth fighter jet, the FC-31, being showcased not farther away as well.

It is widely expected that the J-20 will undergo further upgrades and potentially spawn new variants, including a twin-seat version.

Yang said that the use of domestically built engines is just the beginning for the J-20 upgrades, and the aircraft will keep being improved in the fields of mechanization and informatization.

Photo: Cui Meng/GT

Photo: Cui Meng/GT

"Assuming we do have a twin-seat version of the J-20, it would not be a trainer aircraft, because it would be developed for the enhancement of the aircraft," Yang noted.

When answering a media question related to the next member of the "20-family" aircraft, which is widely believed to be the H-20, a highly expected next-generation strategic bomber, Yang said, "Chinese military enthusiasts' dream will come true."

On Monday, Yang told media at another press conference that during China's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), AVIC will not only further develop the capability of H-6 series bombers, but will also speed up research into new strategic weapons and equipment, to further strengthen long-range strategic strike capability for the PLA Air Force.

Military experts said this could be a signal that research and development of the long-rumored H-20 will see great progress in the coming years, as a stealth strategic bomber is the key weapon for strategic strike capability.  

Yang also revealed on Monday that there were more than J-20 fighter jets in the air during the flight performance for the ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China on July 1, and "there were more on the ground." This means that the PLA Air Force has already enlisted at least dozen fifth-generation stealth fighter jets.



 

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