China’s J-20 stealth fighters recently conducted night combat drills. Chinese analysts claimed that the fifth-generation warplanes displayed their “all-time and all-weather” combat readiness throughout the exercise.
The exercise was held at an undisclosed training base of the PLA Air Force. A number of J-20 fighter jets took off during the night as they commenced the combat exercise against simulated enemies, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on January 16.
The CCTV report further stated that the fighter aircraft were not seen using Luneburg lenses. The Luneburg lenses are radar reflectors, which make stealth aircraft visible during training or to those who are in non-combat flights.
According to the report, apart from air-to-air battle, the J-20s demonstrated other capabilities such as attacking targets on the ground and electronic warfare, etc. This is the second training exercise involving the J-20 ‘Mighty Dragon’ in 2022.
As previously reported by The EurAsian Times, the J-20 fighter jets from multiple PLAAF units began the new year with intensive combat training drills against other fighter jets such as the J-11B and the J-16.
On the first training day of 2022, a brigade of the PLA Northern Theater Command Air Force held an aerial combat exercise, with both sides flaunting their top pilots who had won the ‘Golden Helmet’. The Golden Helmet is believed to be the most realistic combat-oriented aerial warfare competition of PLAAF.
During the drill, two J-20 fighters equipped with the Luneburg lens reportedly engaged an undisclosed number of non-stealth warplanes. Due to the Luneburg lens, the J-20s had given up on their stealth capabilities in order to focus on training for other skills, according to a Chinese expert who also indicated that during a real battle, a powerful adversary may develop some technique to identify stealth aircraft, thus making this exercise crucial.
J-20s Nocturnal Combat Exercise
“By holding combat drills at night, the J-20 displayed its highly reliable all-weather combat readiness and capability”, Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told state-owned Global Times.
“In recent air combat exercises, the J-20 took advantage of its stealth and attack capabilities and realized the tactical goals of finding the enemy first, firing missiles first, breaking away from combat first, and destroying the target first,” said Cheng Xia, a J-20 pilot who took part in the recent combat drill.
However, warplanes of the opposite team were also able to identify the opponents with the help of their radars and missiles launched by them. This forced the adversaries to make “high G evasive maneuvers”, according to the CCTV report.
According to Wei Dongxu, while the exercises helped the J-20 in polishing its stealth capabilities in shooting down non-stealth aircraft, it also simultaneously helped the other aircraft in finding ways to detect and counter stealth fighters such as the J-20.
While the latest reports do not give details about the basis on which the PLA Air Force divided the two teams, experts speculate that the J-20s might have performed against each other as well as non-stealth fighters.
“The J-20 could be used to penetrate hostile defenses and seize air superiority, and other types of non-stealth aircraft could be used to unload a large amount of munitions on targets”, Wei Dongxu further explained. Observers believe that the increasing number of training and exercises involving the J-20 indicates that the PLA Air Force is in the process of commissioning more of these warplanes into its fighter jet fleet.
Another veteran observer who did not wish to be named told The EurAsian Times that besides striking down enemy warplanes, AWACS and tankers, the J-20s would also be practicing bombing enemy ground positions which include key military infrastructure, radar stations and missile defense system sites.
As stealth J-20s would go undetected, they would be less susceptible to interception possibly even by the mightly S-400s to some extend. So, quite likely, the Chinese PLAAF would be practicing, if not already practiced, to pitch the stealth J-20 fighters against the S-400 missile defense system, since India has started to operationalize them.