By Colton Jones
The Chinese defense industry has apparently found ways to increase production of the new J-20 stealth fighter jet to 100 aircraft per year.
Writing for The Diplomat, analyst Rick Joe said that the annual J-20 production rate may approach 100 aircraft per year by the end of 2023 and comfortably meet 100 per year in 2024. Joe argues that retrospective estimates for 2022 based on examining service serials and production serials, cross-examined with credible rumors, around 70 J-20s may have been delivered that year.
The aircraft is currently in production by Chengdu Aircraft Company and the number of J-20s that have been produced is estimated to be anywhere between 200 to 250 aircraft.
According to Joe, the J-20 production had already exceeded that of the United States F-22 (187 airframes), which was once predicted in past years as something that would not occur before the year 2027. The PLA apparently met that mark with four years to spare.
Chinese state media reported that since the J-20’s maiden flight in 2011 and the commissioning of the first aircraft of this type into the PLA in 2017, it is now active in all five theater commands across the country.
J-20 is the most powerful, domestically developed stealth fighter jet. The fighter can carry at least four PL-15 missiles in its main weapon bay and two PL-10 short-range combat missiles in its side weapon bays, when not using external adapters.
The J-20 has long been touted as China’s answer to the American F-22 – considered the world’s premier stealth fighter jet – and the F-35.
A 2017 report by the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said the new Chinese engines would give the J-20 low supercruise ability, meaning they could fly at supersonic speeds for prolonged periods.
US officials have long said the J-20 can’t stack up to US stealth fighters – but Wilsbach, the US Pacific Air Forces commander, said in 2022 that the J-20s made a strong impression when they encountered U.S. F-35s over the East China Sea.