Video's Show Off China's Most Powerful Fighter Jets
2021 marks a hundred years since the founding of the Chinese Communist Party and Beijing would be remiss to let it pass without some serious fanfare.
Chinese J-10 and J-16 fighter jets took to the sky just above the top of tourist hotel buildings in a part of southern China known as Guangdong province. It was what could be described as an ad-hoc or makeshift airshow for Chinese vacationers, some of whom captured the airplanes on video.
A report in Newsweek describing the flyby explained it as “low altitude training exercises,” before going on to suggest the flybys were likely preparations for upcoming airshows marking various key anniversaries for the People’s Republic of China.
The Chinese J-10, often compared to the U.S. F-15, is a 4th generation aircraft that emerged in the late 1990s to rival U.S. 4th-Generation aircraft. An interesting Congressional report from years ago makes the point that the Chinese J-10, which is nearly two decades more modern than the 80s era U.S. F-15, provided part of the inspiration for why the Air Force has upgraded the F-15 over the years, culminating in the emergence of the new F-15EX. The concern has been that the J-10 might have been able to outmatch an F-15 that was not given new electronics, high-speed computing, AESA radar, and next-generation weapons.
The J-10s, as well as the two-seater J-16s, are likely to remain active for many years as the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force continues to add new 5th-Generation J-20s and J-31s to the force.
Another massive and often discussed anniversary placed on the radar by these types of air demonstrations, also mentioned in the Newsweek report, is expected in 2049 when the People's Republic of China (PRC) formally celebrates 100 years of existence. This date has often been cited as a benchmark timeframe or point in the future when China expects to be the dominant global power.
This intention, to solidify global dominance by 2049, was cited in the Pentagon’s 2020 report on China Military Power.
The size of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force is reported to include a total of 2,500 aircraft, making it the third-largest in the world, according to the Pentagon’s 2020 China Military Power report. U.S. threat assessors are not merely concerned about the size of the Chinese Air Force but the increasing technical sophistication and multi-mission tactics with which it operates.
Indeed, China’s defense budget has nearly doubled during the past ten years. Moreover, in early 2019, the PRC announced a 6.2-percent inflation-adjusted increase in its annual military budget to $174 billion, the Pentagon report cites.
While already a large-scale regional power, it is now well established that China seeks a certain kind of global influence and presence, if not dominance, as evidenced by its military modernization, fast-growing Navy, new nuclear weapons, and 5th-generation aircraft.
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 Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.