Top three primary fighter fleets of the modern Chinese Air Force

In the current payroll of the Chinese Air Force, the following three types of fighters are considered the mainstays, with the most respectable numbers and combat capabilities.


First to mention the J-20 fighter. This is the only stealth fighter in the service of the Chinese Air Force at the moment.

J-20 fighter is self-researched and manufactured by China. This is considered a “trump card” fighter, helping China to confront the US 5th generation F-35 and F-22 fighters.

J-20 5th generation fighter aircraft

According to western media China have currently more than 200 J-20 fighter aircraft and by the end of this century, the total production of the J-20 series of stealth fighters will at least exceed the 500 mark.

However, the fatal weakness of this fighter is that China is forced to import engines from Russia. The Chinese-made jet engines themselves, cannot meet the requirements of the J-20 However, this weakness is being tried by China to eliminate, by releasing a few experimental versions of the J-20 , using domestic engines.

The J-20 adopts a comprehensive layout structure of “canard wing + side strip wing + lift body”, which combines the full-motion duck wing, side strip wing and lift the body.


China’s largest and cheapest fighter today is the J-10. According to many statistical documents, by 2021, at least 540 J-10s have been built by the Chinese Air Force. The Chengdu J-10 fighter is a reliable mainstay multirole aircraft of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).

J-10 vs Rafale

The development of the Firebird began in 1988 as an answer to the Soviet Su-27 Flanker and MiG-29 Fulcrum, amid the backdrop of the ongoing rivalry between the two then-communist powers.

Designed by the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute, China‘s J-10 was devised with state-of-the-art radar and missile technology in mind and was intended to be a replacement for the J-7 fighter aircraft and the Q-5 ground-attack aircraft.

China’s initial version of the fighter, the J-10A, was a relatively basic fourth-generation fighter that entered service in 2004.

The J-10B, an upgraded version of the fighter, had its first flight in 2008 and entered service in 2014, including air-refueling capability and improvements in its thrust-vector capabilities and radar technologies.

Most recently in the Firebird’s development, the J-10C variant notably is the first Thunderbird to include a domestically produced engine.

The J-10 can carry Chinese laser-guided bombs, anti-ship missiles, and land-attack missiles in keeping with its multirole classification.

The aircraft’s official specifications indicate a maximum flight speed of 1,350 kilometers per hour, a combat range of 1,240 kilometers, and a patrol range of 2,600 kilometers with air refueling support.

The J-10C includes a modern Active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system, which would allow the PLAAF to continue to employ the Firebird into the medium-term future, just as the United States Air Force plans to employ the F-16 alongside newer airframes.

To date, no variant of the J-10 has been operationally tested or experienced combat like some of its fourth-generation peers such as the F-16 or Su-27. Nonetheless, China’s PLAAF leadership has assigned the J-10 the role of the “backbone” of the air force.

In addition to using the air force and navy, China also exports the J-10 to foreign countries. However, so far, only one country has put the J-10 into combat service, which is Pakistan.


The J-16 is a multi-role fighter jet, which was introduced in 2004. The aircraft is equipped with a modified AESA radar and is capable of conducting both air-to-air as well as air-to-ground combat missions.

J-16 fighter aircraft
J-16 fighter aircraft

It was previously reported by Chinese media that more than 200 J-16 heavy fighter jets were officially in service in China. J-16 fighter aircraft is the bomb truck of PLAAF. According to Chinese site J-16 carry more than 9 tons of weapons which is similar to Rafale but less than the US F-15 but more than the Indian air force Su-30MKI. Frankly J-16 is a truly air superiority fighter aircraft of PLAAF.

According to some information China will build at least 350 J-16 fighter to replace the old Russian and USSR made flanker series aircraft

J-16 is the middle man between J10 and J-20, which can not only form a combat advantage over ordinary fourth-generation aircraft in other countries but also does not require the high cost of the J-20.

The J-16 will be used as a high-end model to fill the huge gap in combat power between the fourth-generation aircraft and the fifth-generation aircraft . It can not only form a team with the J-10 and J-11, and act as the main attacker of the fleet; it can also cooperate with the J-20 to assist the J-20 in performing difficult and high-value tasks.

J-16 is equipped with a third-generation active phased array radar made of gallium nitride semiconductor materials, which is similar to the fifth-generation aircraft. The J-20 radar with the same technology has higher power and longer detection distance. According to official data, the maximum detection range of the J-16’s radar can exceed 250 kilometers

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