Business

Zhuhai air show: China J-20 fighter jet in public debut

  • 1 November 2016
  • From the section Business
Media captionChina has showcased its J-20 stealth fighter jet in public for the first time

China has showcased its long-awaited J-20 stealth fighter in public for the first time.

Two of the radar-evading jets performed a 60-second flypast at the Zhuhai air show in Guangdong province - the country's biggest meeting of plane makers and buyers.

Previously the jets had only been seen by bloggers.

The fighters are being seen as symbol of Beijing's desire to modernise and upgrade its military capabilities.

President Xi Jinping wants to toughen China's armed forces as it takes a more assertive stance in the region, especially in the South China and East China seas.

The J-20 has been developed and made by the Chengdu Aircraft Industries Group, a subsidiary of Aviation Industry Corporation of China.

Some have likened the new fighter to Lockheed Martin's F-22 Raptor jet, with industry analyst Bradley Perret of Aviation Week saying the jet was "clearly a big step forward in Chinese combat capability,"

China's J-20 stealth fighter

Little is known about China's new stealth fighter jet. Here's a timeline:

  • 1990s China reveals plans to develop its own stealth jets

  • 2011 first secret test flights of the J-20

  • 2016 two J-20 jets are showcased at the Zhuhai air show

  • 2018 the J-20 is expected to be operational

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Compare and contrast: Some say China's stealth fighter is similar to the US F-22 Raptor

A statement of intent

by Stephen McDonell, BBC correspondent, Beijing

It's technological displays like this which will lead plenty of people to imagine a time soon when China catches up with the United States militarily.

These two J-20 stealth fighters made a dramatic entrance at the Zhuhai Air Show.

The radar-evading jets came in low showing off their manoeuvrability and setting off alarms in the nearby car park.

It's the first time this country's top-of-the-line fighter jets have been seen in public and it's being viewed as a real statement of intent that China wants to close the technology gap with all other rivals.

Although the J-20 jets passed by several times people won't be allowed to get too close to them at this show. Their design is still top secret so they won't be on display in the way that other aircraft are.

Naturally China will be presenting plenty of other military hardware this week from attack helicopters to seaplanes.

The message here is that this ever-emerging power is not to be trifled with. But China also wants to sell equipment to other nations and in this field, too, surpass the United States.

China's International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition - also called Airshow China - has become one of the world's biggest events of its kind.

And with China set to become the world's biggest aviation market in the next decade, the show is an opportunity for Beijing to demonstrate its ambitions in civil aviation as well as defence.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Y-20 strategic transport plane has already been unveiled at the Zhuhai air show

Although firms from around the world are exhibiting at the meeting, it is the latest Chinese aircraft and weapons that are getting the most attention on day one of the event.

The Y-20, China's first heavy transporter jet has already been unveiled.

Also hotly anticipated is the AG-600 seaplane, the largest of its kind in the world and likely to be used for search and rescue missions as well as patrolling China's seas.

A Xian H-6K bomber and the new Changhe Z-10K attack helicopter are also expected to make their first appearances.

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