Key point: China is making rapid progress in achieving a major carrier-based navy.
The Chinese military has decided to develop the air force’s J-20 stealth fighter into a sea-based variant to fly from the navy’s growing fleet of aircraft carriers.
The Central Military Commission, the People’s Liberation Army’s top decision-making body, favors the J-20 over the smaller FC-31 stealth fighter design, according to the Hong Kong South China Morning Post.
The Chengdu Aerospace Corporation, which builds the J-20 for the air force, “will announce some new products, which will include a new version of their J-20,” an unnamed source told the newspaper. “You can guess what type it will be.”
If the selection of the J-20 is confirmed it will mark the end of a lengthy debate between its supporters and advocates of the FC-31 as to which would make a better carrier-based fighter.
Those who favored the J-20 said it was more advanced and reliable than the FC-31, but its supporters said it was more light and nimble.
“Both the J-20 and FC-31 have their advantages. The size of the J-20 is similar to the J-15 since both are powerful heavy fighters,” Song Zhongping, a military commentator for Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television, said.
The carrier-based J-20 partially would replace the J-15, China’s first carrier fighter.
The J-15 is a clone of Russia’s Su-33 naval fighter. Outwardly, the fighter has a lot in common with U.S., French and British carrier planes. “The J-15 has folding wings, strengthened landing gear, a tailhook under a shortened tail stinger, two-piece slotted flaps, canards and a retractable inflight-refueling probe on the left side of the nose,” the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency explained in a January 2019 report.
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