J-20 Black Eagle (photo credit: Daily Star)
Defense planners concerned with the Asian-Pacific Theater were sent scrambling last week as China announced the introduction of its J-20 stealth fighter. Prior to that move, the only country in the world with stealth aircraft in active military service was the United States. The U.S. had long held a monopoly on stealth, beginning with experimental stealth use on the SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance plane. Although not a stealth jet, some stealth concepts were applied to the design. True stealth combat aircraft first came into public view with the F-117 and B-2 during the 1980's and 90's. Following the introduction of these bombers, stealth fighter jets came into being with the F-22 (2005) and F-35 (2015). Enter the Chinese J-20!
It must be noted that the J-20 benefited from espionage. Chinese hackers gained access to American stealth technology from both the F-22 and F-35 programs, and this stolen tech was used in the J-20 design. The jet is built for long range and carries multiple weapons. It is expected that the US. Navy and its aircraft carrier force will have to deal with its presence during any future conflict that may arise in the disputed South China Sea region.
With American stealth aircraft first seeing action during the 80's in Panama, American forces have held a monumental advantage in the airspace above conflicts for decades. China just changed that calculus, while making itself a player in future air combat. In addition to the J-20, China also has the stealthy J-31 in development for EXPORT! And it doesn't end there: China is rumored to have a stealth bomber in development; and a number of other countries -- including Russia and Iran -- already have stealth programs underway. As a result, U.S. pilots could soon be skirmishing with enemy stealth jets over multiple conflict zones.
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