China will mass produce its new J-20 fifth-generation stealth fighter, H-20 stealth bomber and new Type 055 large destroyer as part of a stated goal to modernize its military in the coming years and carve a path toward global supremacy.
The communist country will also be moving quickly to build and commission its third and most advanced aircraft carrier as part of a broad modernization overhaul outlined in a news report from the Chinese government-backed Global Times newspaper.
Specific modernization benchmarks were outlined by the Communist Party of China Central Committee, as reported in the paper by the Chinese Ministry of National Defense.
The details of each phase were not specified in the article, yet a Senior Chinese military official was quoted as saying the effort seeks to reach “phased goals in national defense and military modernization.”
While stated as a certain kind of development or step forward, the Chinese announcement does not offer anything particularly new beyond what is already well known about the country’s massive modernization acceleration. However, plans to “mass produce” the H-20 and J-20 do appear quite significant as that does not seem to have been emphasized before. The comment suggests a measure of confidence in those platforms as well as a decided effort to enlarge the force, particularly its most advanced components. This makes sense when one considers that the U.S. plans to acquire more than 1,700 F-35 stealth fighters and likely well over 100 new stealth B-21 bombers. There is already some discussion about increasing the number to as many as 180 B-21s given the need within the fleet and the promise of the technology.
Mass producing the J-20, for example, could be seen as a deliberate effort to match the U.S. F-22 and F-35 in terms of mission scope reach or air presence, however the impact of large numbers of J-20s would, it seems, rely upon the reach and accuracy of the J-20s sensors and weapons. However, it would offer China an opportunity to greatly expand its global presence and forward-position large numbers of J-20s in strategically vital areas around the globe in areas of interest to China. While much is not known, it does not seem at all clear that a J-20 can truly rival an F-35 or an F-22, despite the Chinese claim that it is a true fifth-generation jet.
In the same spirit, mass producing the H-20 could be seen as a deliberate effort to match or even out-perform the planned numbers of U.S. B-21s. However, again, the impact would equally rely upon the effectiveness of the H-20’s stealth, avionics, sensing and weaponry. At the same time, a large bomber presence would, in a manner similar to a sizable J-20 global footprint, enable the Chinese to conduct bomber patrols and respond quickly in multiple locations around the world at the same time.
The other concerning aspect of this is simply that China does have a very substantial industrial production capacity and a recent history of being able to generate platforms, such as carriers, armored vehicles and fighter jets quickly.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.