Soon after Testing AI Missiles, China Now Showcases J-20 Military Stealth Jets

After several years of being under wraps, China has finally unveiled its Chengdu J-20 stealth fighters at an airshow in Guangdong province. The Zhuhai air show is known to be the nation’s most important rendezvous point for aircraft makers as well as buyers in the Republic of China.


Strictly speaking, the J-20s were not allowed to be inspected, as other planes are after the show, but during the event they staged two 60-second flybys over the crowd, giving everyone a glimpse of what some are saying is very much like the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor jets. Until now, the plane has only been seen by bloggers, says a BBC report. This is the first time the general public is setting their eyes on the new technology.

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BBC correspondent Stephen McDonell reported that the “radar-evading jets came in low showing off their manoeuvrability and setting off alarms in the nearby car park.”

This comes at a time when China is making bold statements to the world about its military capacity. We already know that exactly three months ago, China was seen testing a fleet of cruise missiles with artificial intelligence capability. In our report about that development we stated that this could be the start of a new arms race between China and the United States, and it would seem that the BBC is of the same view.

The fact that China is slowly revealing its capabilities to the world is significant in and of itself. At this point the J-20s aren’t even fully operational. In fact, it’s been two decades since the plans for building jets with stealth capabilities were made public, and they’re only expected to be ready for production in 2018.

But the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition, or Airshow China, as the Zhuhai event is called isn’t just about stealth jets. Over the days between Nov 1 and Nov 6, visitors will be able to see flying and static displays of a large number of jet aircraft, helicopters and other types of military and civilian aircraft from over 700 exhibitors from 42 countries including Russia, the UK and Pakistan.

But military aircraft aside, China’a general aviation market is on its way to becoming the largest in the world. According to Kader Mattar, VP Sales for APAC at leading Canadian aircraft and train maker Bombardier:

“Geographic positioning of the Asia Pacific region and distances between major cities necessitates the need for long-range aircraft. We expect the Chinese market to be one of the four most active markets and to generate the most deliveries over the next 10 years.”

As the aviation industry in China picks up the pace, both general and military aircraft seem to be benefitting from this rapid growth. On the military front, China wants to be seen as an assertive military force that can hold its own in the region. Here’s what Chinese Air Force spokesperson said last week about the J-20 stealth jets, as reported by CNN:

“The aircraft will further enhance the overall combat capability of the Air Force, which would help the army’s sacred mission of maintaining the national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity.”

So it’s clear they want to send a message to other countries in the region, and the fact that they’ve made this top secret aircraft publicly visible does look like they’re allowing potential enemies of the state to have a glimpse of what they would be up against.

It was the same with the AI “Death Drone” missile testing in the East China Sea in August. Rather than conduct hush-hush tests, the nation paraded its AI missile capability for the whole world to see.

Very few details are known about the J-20 stealth jets as of now since it’s still under a veil of secrecy leading up to its full production capability in 2018. One thing that seems to be well known is the comparison between the J-20 stealth fighters and the United States’ F-22 jet fighters, as well as the F-35 jets that are soon to be deployed in the Pacific Ocean by Japan and the U.S.


At this point it is also not known whether China intends to deploy any sort of artificial intelligence capabilities in the J-20s under development, but considering the proliferation of AI weapons over the past few years, it’s likely that some measure of machine learning will be implemented as part of their design.

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Image credits: Wikimedia