China claims that J-20 from the Eastern Command intercepted an F-35
BEIJING, CHINA — For the past few weeks, interviews with pilots patrolling the East China Sea have been broadcast on state-run CCTV in China. They are mostly from the Eastern Air Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. One of the last interviews is with Squadron Commander Wang Hai. This squadron is equipped with fifth-generation J-20 fighters.
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Yang Juncheng, the squadron’s commander, says Chinese pilots are ready to engage in combat even in peacetime if foreign aircraft violate the air defenses of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone [ADIZ]. The reason for Commander Yang’s statement was an incident that occurred during one of the duty patrols in the region.
Footage from the cockpit of a J-20 piloted by Chinese pilot Wei Xin recorded the moment a foreign fighter jet was intercepted. Wei Xing spoke in English to inform the intruder that he had entered the range of Chinese air defenses. The Chinese pilot asks the porter pilot to carry out his identification and the purpose of the flight.
There is no official information from the government in Beijing, including the Ministry of Defense, that the foreign aircraft was an F-35. But such is the speculation in the local media. They recall that in the region of the South China Sea, there are only two fighters of the fifth generation aircraft class – J-20 and F-35.
Speculations about the interception of the F-35 arise mainly because of the silence of the Chinese media. In the West, if a patrolling squadron intercepts an aircraft approaching or entering restricted airspace, the Ministry of Defense reports the model of the stealth aircraft at a later stage. This is done by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.
However, China very rarely reports the model of the enemy aircraft. The US and China are in a league of their own when it comes to the production and availability of fifth-generation fighters. The J-20 and F-35 are complex aircraft built from meshes and assemblies. Both planes do not hide any secrets for the pilots who fly them, thanks to the pilot’s helmets, which allow them to see “through the plane”.
The US continues to lead the manufacturing race with China. Nearly 100 units of the F-35 come off the production lines a year. The Beijing relies on 35-40 produced units a year. After the F-35, the J-20 is the second fastest-produced high-end fighter in the world. China may catch up with its competitor in production.
It is quite possible that the interview of the Chinese pilots on state television was about the interception of the F-35. There is already a documented meeting of the two fighter jets, officially confirmed by the Pentagon. This happened early last year, sometime in March, when the head of US Pacific Air Forces, Kenneth Wilsbach, confirmed the news.
The deployment of the F-35 in China
The F-35 is a lighter aircraft designed to deliver deep strikes in the rear of the enemy beyond visual range. Combined with its stealth characteristics, the single-engine American fighter becomes a deadly stealth machine. However, its Chinese competitor is faster, more maneuverable, and flies at a higher altitude. The J-20 carries more weapons as well.
The J-20 has already registered its first interception last year as well. This exact interception is not reported to have been by the F-35 [as claimed for the latter]. But in August, China’s Ministry of Defense confirmed the successful interception of an enemy aircraft.
The China Eastern Command is the base of the Chinese Air Force. Mainly because of the task of responding to countermeasures against threats from Japan. Therefore, when China began serial production of the J-20, they were directly deployed to the Eastern Command, replacing the Russian Su-30MKK.
Today, in addition to the Eastern Command, China has dozens of J-20s in the Northern and Southern structures. The former is responsible for covering a threat from the Korean Peninsula, while the latter is from the Taiwan Strait. According to sources, China has a significant number of J-20s in the Central Command, which will at a later stage and if necessary fill the ranks of the Eastern, Southern, and Northern Commands.
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