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Chinese J-20 stealth fighter jets fly past during a military parade at the Zhurihe training base in China's northern Inner Mongolia region on July 30, 2017. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)


China just started using its Chengdu J-20 fighter jets, a military official announced last week via state-run Xinhua News Agency. The long-range stealth fighters are evidently China’s best in their class. They should help the People’s Liberation Army air force with long-range interception or position it to strike first at infrastructure targets on the ground. China will probably focus on its coasts and land borders, the most likely sites of skirmishes given China’s turbid neighbor relations. “The PLA Air Force, like the PLA Navy, lagged behind for many years and is eager to acquire cutting-edge capabilities now that the Chinese industrial base has grown stronger and budgets are flush,” says Joshua Pollack, editor of The Nonproliferation Review in Washington.


China’s latest can beat three other weighty countries that are developing similar aircraft, although this is largely because rival aircraft have yet to be released or proven yet in service. They are:


1. India: Indian aerospace and defense firm Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. is working with Russian aircraft maker JSC Sukhoi Co. to develop what this news report describes as a fighter aircraft with stealth capability. It would be in the same class as the J-20. But the project is “complicated,” and work will go slowly, the head of a Russian state-owned export promotion firm was quoted saying in the report. The two countries have worked together since 2007. Russia’s military is considered stronger than China’s, but India is a step behind and troops from the two countries faced off over a disputed border region for 70 days in mid-2017.

1. 印度:据《今日俄罗斯》的新闻报道描述,印度的航空国防公司印度斯坦航空有限公司为了发展一种有隐形能力的战斗机,正在跟俄罗斯飞机制造商JSC苏霍伊航空集团合作。新开发的飞机将会和J20是同一类型飞机。“但是该项目是‘复杂的’,进展会很慢”,这是该报道引述一家俄罗斯国有出口促进公司总裁的话。这两个国家从2007年就开始合作。俄罗斯的军力被认为比中国军力更强大,但是印度还落后一步,2017年年中,中印两国军队在争议边境区域对峙了70天。

2. Japan: An R&D institute under Japan’s Ministry of Defense has contracted Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to develop a stealth fighter called the X-2 Shinshin. After eight years of development, a test flight delayed due to parts failure went smoothly in April 2016, per this industry news report. The aircraft is built expressly to dodge radars. But the plane is still in development. On top of that, Japan is reportedly considering development of another fighter jet, dubbed the F-3. Why so many fighters? The rise of China’s military strength troubles Japan. The two face off regularly over a dispute tract of the East China Sea, and Tokyo is taking an ever stronger rolein checking Beijing’s expansion in the South China Sea.

2. 日本:日本防卫省下的一个研发机构已经与三菱重工签定合约开发一款叫做X2心神的战机。根据《国防航空》网站消息,经过8年的开发后,由于零件故障而推迟的试飞已于2016年4月顺利进行。这架飞机明显是为躲避雷达而建造的。但是这架飞机仍然在开发中。另外,据报道,日本还在考虑开发另一架战机,名为F-3。为什么开发那么多战机?中国军事力量的崛起困扰了日本。两国常常在东中国海争议地带对峙,在牵制北京在南中国海扩张的事务上,东京正扮演着比之前更强硬的角色。

3. Russia: In addition to the fighter being developed with India, Sukhoi will finish research and development on another J-20 peer, the PAK FA T-50, in 2019 with initial trials due next year, the country’s news service TASS reports. This aircraft, two of which got into a mock dogfight at an aviation show in July, was originally due for use this year. China got there first. The two countries have lived in peace for the past 25 years, following several border clashes.

3. 俄罗斯:除了跟印度开发的战机,苏霍伊将在2019年完成另一款与J20同等的战机的研发,即未来前线战斗机T50,据该国的通讯社塔斯社报道,这款飞机将在明年进行首次测试。在7月份的航空展上,有两架这款飞机进行了空中缠斗模拟,这款飞机本来应该今年交付使用。中国领先一步完成了这个目标。这两个国家在过去的25年里一直和平相处,在那之前有过几次边境冲突。

But China’s J-20 would also be a tough rival against the American-made, U.S. Air Force’s hundreds of F-35 fighter jets.