China's J-20 Stealth Jet Could Be Wheels Up This Year, US Commander Says
General Charles Brown, head of the US' Pacific Air Forces, recently revealed that if all things remain on pace, China's Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter could "possibly" be deemed combat ready by Chinese officials this year.
That's not exactly good news for US forces, and Brown told Bloomberg for a Wednesday article that the move would elicit a "greater threat, greater capability" for Chinese servicemembers in the region. "My sense of the way the Chinese operate is somewhat incremental… They'll continue to push the envelope to figure out does anybody say or do anything – if you don't push back, it'll keep coming," he said.
Brown went on to note that US would attempt to counter the J-20's capabilities by increasing the deployment of US-developed F-35 jets to the Pacific. He also indicated that continuing patrols of the hotly contested South China Sea waters would be an option.
But the single-seat, twinjet, all-weather, fifth-generation fighter isn't the only Chinese aircraft raising eyebrows among US officials.
According to the commander, there is also a belief that China is planning to develop a dual-use bomber that would be able to carry both nuclear and non-nuclear precision-guided weapons. Without indicating whether China has the technology to create such a stealth bomber, Brown said that he doesn't "think it would be too far off the mark to say they could do that as well."
This, however, isn't the first time that there's been mention of China building a stealth bomber. Earlier this year, the US' Defense Intelligence Agency released its annual report on Chinese military power, revealing that the People's Liberation Army Air Force "is developing new medium- and long-range stealth bombers."
The report goes on to say that the bombers would likely be used to "strike regional and global targets" and that "stealth technology continues to play a key role in the development of these new bombers, which probably will reach initial operational capability no sooner than 2025."
It adds that China's continued efforts to modernize its fleet were "closing the gap with Western air forces across a broad spectrum of capabilities, such as aircraft performance, C2, and electronic warfare."
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