China has put into service its new generation J-20 stealth fighter, a warplane it hopes will narrow the military gap with the United States, as senior naval officers said the country was building a “first class” navy and developing a marine corps.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is overseeing a sweeping modernization of the country’s armed forces, the largest in the world, including anti-satellite missiles and advanced submarines, seeking to project power far from its shores.
In a report late on Thursday, state television’s military channel confirmed that the J-20 had now entered service, though it gave no other details.
The aircraft was shown in public for the first time in November at the Zhuhai airshow and was first glimpsed by Chinese planespotters in 2010.
However questions remain whether the new Chinese fighter can match the radar-evading properties of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor air-to-air combat jet, or the latest strike jet in the U.S. arsenal, Lockheed’s F-35. The F-22, developed for the U.S. Air Force, is the J-20’s closest lookalike.
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