China mass producing advanced J-20B warplanes as tensions rise with US
Beijing has reportedly begun mass producing a modified version of its fifth-generation Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter jets amid escalating China-US tensions, which have given rise to fears of a military conflict between the two sides.
According to Press TV, Chinese media cited military sources as saying Sunday that the new fighter — known as the J-20B — was officially unveiled at an inauguration ceremony held on July 8.
“The most significant change to the (J-20) fighter jet is that it is now equipped with thrust vector control,” an unnamed source told the South China Morning Post, without elaborating on other upgrades.
The J-20 made its formal debut at the 2016 air show in southern China. A first batch of the state-of-the-art aircraft entered service a year later, when the US decided to deploy over 100 F-35 fighter jets to allied regional countries Japan and South Korea.
The Chinese fighter — the only non-American fifth-generation fighter jet to enter active service — boasts a wide range of features including a heads-up display, AESA radar guided air to air missiles and a distributed aperture system.
The twin-engine military aircraft is considerably heavier and more specialized than the US-made F-35 fighter jets.
The news comes amid heightened military tensions between China and the US over the American military’s increased military activities in regional waters — which have long been at the center of territorial disputes between Beijing and its neighbors.
The tensions saw a spike earlier this month after the US, in a highly provocative move, deployed a strike group centered on two enormous nuclear-powered aircraft carriers to the disputed waters of the South China Sea, where Beijing was holding naval drills.
The move drew a warning from Beijing, which claims sovereignty to most of the sea.