The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) presented two Chengdu J-20A fighters to the public for the first time on Tuesday, the opening of the Zhuhai Airshow in China.
The new variant’s main difference is the use of domestically manufactured engines, the WS-10C, instead of the Saturn AL-31, originating from Russia.
China’s first 5th gen stealth fighter, the J-20 has been in service since 2018 and, according to Chinese media, has had an operational squadron of the J-20A model since July.
The large aircraft is an equivalent to the USAF F-22 Raptor, but has not yet reached the peak of the project. Chengdu has been enhancing the fighter to deliver performance closer to that desired by the PLAAF.
The WS-10C engine is considered an intermediate solution for the fighter as it does not have enough power for the J-20 to be able to perform supercruise flights above the speed of sound without the use of afterburners.
This capability, it is believed, will only be achieved with another engine, the WS-15, under development by Xian and which should equip the J-20B.
Despite considering the J-20 little capable, the US Air Force has intensified the training of its pilots for possible combat with enemy stealth fighters. Because of this, even the F-117s were taken out of retirement to serve as aggressor planes.