The J-20 stealth fighter jet could possibly be deployed by China this year. Analysts connected this event to China’s military developments and what some analysts say is China’s modernization program, over 2,500 fighters, and desire to “test” boundaries with countries like the United States. But there are many more things we should contemplate.
We must consider that these planes are only “likely” to be introduced this year. It shows the sometimes click-bait nature of the media, illustrating that only a probable development is linked to more fear about the rise of China. On top of that, if America’s newest F-35 fighter jet is any guide then the J-20 will be acquired in limited quantities, face numerous technical issues, and lack spare parts for the foreseeable future.
China reportedly has over 2,500 jets which usually increases fears about their power. But the vast majority of those fighters (almost half) are older generation J-7 and J-10 fighters. Militaries that are in a long process of modernization with different generations of fighters will have significant supply problems even in peace time. (Again, as the recent supply bottlenecks for the F-35 underscores.) This means that China will have relatively few advanced fighters to field, and in the case of war many of these will be grounded due to lack of spare parts before they face combat.
Even then, the weapons systems don’t fight automatically, but rely on trained pilots. While the War on Terror has required many deployments and stressed military equipment, it has honed the combat capabilities of American pilots. The F-35 was used in Iraq in the fight against ISIS, and analysts say it can easily counter the Chinese J-20. In contrast, Chinese fighter pilots don’t have the same level of training. They often lack initiative and realistic scenarios, and in some cases are even called “dumb.”
Americans should be reasonably concerned that China is fielding a new advanced fighter, and that they are aggressively pursuing their interests in the South China Sea by unilaterally building up islands and making territorial claims. But the introduction of the J-20 is a minor step taken by China for which the U.S. is well-prepared.