China’s J-20, a fifth-generation fighter jet.

China is rapidly developing combat and transport aircraft to support longer-range military operations.
A flight to Europe by China’s Y-20 airlifter and regular patrols by J-20 fighters are milestones for those jets, officials say.
The new capabilities worry China’s neighbors, but China’s troops and hardware are largely untested in combat.

China’s military has rapidly built one of the world’s largest aviation forces, developing increasingly capable aircraft that the US Defense Department has warned are “gradually eroding” the US military’s advantage in the air.

In recent weeks, China’s premier fighter jets and strategically valuable airlifters have reached milestones that underscore Beijing’s increasing focus on and investment in military aviation.

In early April, six Y-20 cargo planes arrived in Belgrade to deliver what were believed to be Chinese-made HQ-22 surface-to-air missiles to Serbia’s military. The roughly 5,000-mile flight by what Chinese state media called “a record-breaking number” of Y-20s was seen as a demonstration of Beijing’s ambitions for global power projection.

Days later, a top official with the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, the state-owned firm developing the J-20 fighter jet, said that J-20s are now conducting regular patrols over the East and South China seas, a sign of the advanced jet’s increasing reliability.

The developments are indications that China’s air force “is growing more confident in its ability to operate farther and farther from Chinese shores with newer and newer aircraft,” Timothy Heath, a senior international defense researcher at the RAND Corporation think tank, told Insider.

China has struggled to develop new engines for the J-20.

The AVIC official said the J-20s were routinely conducting alert patrols, which are mainly for surveillance, over the South China and combat patrols, which require a higher level of readiness, over the East China Sea. The official said that had been made possible by the switch to a “Chinese heart” for the jets, a reference to domestically developed engines.

The J-20 was originally fitted with less powerful Russian-made engines. Some of the several dozen J-20s in service are now fitted with WS-10C engines, an upgraded version of an older Chinese-made engine, but China has struggled to develop the WS-15 engine specifically designed for fifth-generation aircraft like the J-20. The lack of engine power is expected to prevent the J-20 from adopting

Source:: Business Insider

      

With new operations on opposite sides of the world, Chinese military aircraft are showing off growing reach

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