China’s J-20 fighter jets near India border? State media downplays report
The deployment of China’s most advanced J-20 stealth fighter near the border with India should not be over-interpreted in context of the Sino-India border friction as the tension is de-escalating, Chinese state media has said.
The long-range jets’ deployment, which is yet to be confirmed by the People’s Liberation Army Airforce (PLAAF), could be for the aircraft’s long-distance flight practice and part of the warplane’s protocols to adapt to different environment, Global Times, the nationalistic tabloid, said in an article.
The article was referring to a news article published in Forbes, which cited satellite imagery to claim that two J-20 fighter aircraft have been deployed by the PLAAF near the India-China border.
The J-20 is China’s fourth-generation medium- and long-range fighter aircraft, and it was commissioned into air force combat service in 2018.
The aircraft were spotted, some 320 km from the border, at the Hotan airport in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
China’s armed forces have so far not made any announcement about deploying fighter aircraft near the border though it is likely fighter jet squadrons are stationed near the long and disputed border with India.
“The J-20 is a long-range heavy fighter jet. So, when deployed in Hotan, it can potentially cover many areas in Central and South Asia,” it said.
The nationalistic tabloid, known for its anti-India rhetoric, however, sought to play down the development.
The deployment if true is “…likely part of normal training on long distance flight and environment adaptation,” Chinese military aviation expert Fu Qianshao said.
China is a large country with many airfields in various terrains and under different climate conditions, and the J-20 needs to fly in more regions to adapt, Fu said.
The border tensions have already been de-escalating, and foreign media’s reports could have ulterior motives, the state media article said.
Earlier this month, experts had told the tabloid that the Rafale fighter jets were no match for its J-20 stealth fighter jets, days after the first batch of five French-made warplanes landed in Ambala.
Chinese experts told state media that the Rafale is only a third-plus generation fighter jet and does not stand much of a chance against a stealth, fourth-generation one like the J-20.
Saying that the Rafale is superior to the Su-30 MKI in certain aspects, the acquisition does not yield a significant qualitative change for India, it said.
“In some combat performance areas, the Rafale is superior to the Su-30 MKI fighter jets, which are in service in the Indian Air Force in large batches, but it is only about one-fourth of a generation more advanced and does not yield a significant qualitative change,” it said.
The J-20 made its maiden flight in 2011 and was first shown to the public at the 11th Airshow China in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, in south China, in November 2016, according to the official news agency, Xinhua.
The fighters made their parade debut when the PLA marked its 90th anniversary in July 2017 at Zhurihe military training base in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
In the backdrop of the ongoing border tension, India last week called on China to work jointly for “complete disengagement and de-escalation” on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), saying the future of the bilateral relationship is dependent on the situation along the disputed frontier.
Chinese troops are said to have pulled back from Galwan Valley, the scene of the June 15 clash that resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers and unspecified Chinese casualties, and some friction points, but the troop withdrawal hasn’t moved forward in the Finger Areas of Pangong Lake, Gogra and Depsang.