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China’s J-20 5th gen fleet grows rapidly; Questions surround new advanced variant

A clearer version of an image of the Chengdu “J-20B” that emerged on Dec. 23, 2022, while many observers are skeptical this represents a real aircraft, eventually there will be an advanced J-20B.
FPI / January 17, 2023


By Richard Fisher

There is more confirmation that China’s fleet of 5th generation Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) J-20A twin-engine air superiority fighters is growing, but there is also skepticism regarding a new advanced variant that reportedly emerged in late December 2022.

Displayed up close for the first time at the November 2022 Zhuhai Airshow, observers were able to view production numbers on the J-20 for the first time, indicating that total production of this fighter may already exceed 200, whereas the Obama Administration ended production of the Unites States Lockheed Martin F-22A twin-engine 5th gen fighter after producing 187.

Indications of increased numbers of J-20 units came on Chinese state television on or about Jan. 7, showing that a second combat aviation brigade (AB) of J-20s has been formed in the Eastern Theater Command (ETC) near Taiwan, at Changxing Air Base.

The first ETC unit for the J-20 for formed at Wuhu around 2017 and by July 2020 the Chinese “Meyet” web page was reporting that each Theater Command already had one J-20 brigade.

There are now eight J-20 brigades in the five Theater Commands of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), with one dedicated to training, and the emergence of a second ECT combat brigade is a strong indication that all Theater Commands could gain two J-20 combat brigades.

Were this to happen, total PLA Air Force (PLAAF) J-20 numbers could reach closer to 300, which would put pressure on the U.S., Japanese (147x F-35), South Korean (60x F-35) and Australian (72x F-35) 5th generation fighter fleets based in Asia.

But in late December 2022 a controversy arose regarding the emergence of a new more advanced variant of the J-20.

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