U.S. Sources Estimate China Likely Already Fields Over 200 J-20 Stealth Fighters: Just How Many Are There?

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Increasingly since its entry into work successful March 2017 estimates of the fig of J-20 5th procreation fighters successful the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force person varied, with aggregate Western sources claiming implicit 150 were successful work successful 2021 portion different analysts, basing counts connected serial numbers observed and the fig of units confirmed to person received the aircraft, placed their estimates astatine nether 100. A CNN study connected the J-20’s deployment for patrols of the East China Sea and South China Sea connected April 15 placed this considerably higher inactive estimating that astir 200 were successful service, highlighting that the precocious endurance jets would beryllium capable to run acold retired to oversea to support Chinese territorial claims. The appraisal stressed that the aircraft’s induction of the indigenous WS-10C engine provided greater reliability than their older Russian AL-31 engines which whitethorn good person facilitated sending them retired connected longer ranged missions. The WS-10C has accrued the scope of the fighters and provides much powerfulness successful non-afterburner mode which allows them to supercruise - alert supersonically for extended periods without utilizing afterburners. The J-20 is the lone combatant of its procreation successful accumulation with a supercruise capability, with the overmuch lighter American azygous motor F-35 and the Russian Su-57 currently successful tiny standard accumulation some lacking it. 

The J-20 has been produced with the WS-10C since mid 2019, and saw the initiation of full standard wide accumulation announced successful December 2021. The combatant has entered work successful fast-growing numbers and is currently successful work with 7 PLA Air Force brigades. Acceleration of accumulation comes arsenic the plan continues to beryllium improved rapidly, which has included changes to the airframe and enactment connected processing specialised variants to service successful supporting roles specified arsenic drone controller and airborne aboriginal informing aircraft. Expanded accumulation whitethorn good travel astatine the disbursal of different fighters, astir notably the J-11D which is inactive astatine a prototype signifier and the J-16 of which implicit 200 are thought to person been built. While an estimation of 200 J-20s successful work remains precocious erstwhile considering the fig of units deploying them, arsenic the commissioning of caller units continues to accelerate it remains plausible that specified numbers volition person near accumulation lines by the extremity of 2023. As investments successful expanding accumulation continue, it remains precise apt that the J-20 volition beryllium much wildly fielded than immoderate different heavyweight combatant of its procreation with a fleet size of implicit 500 adjacent the extremity of the decennary being likely.