As China unveiled its first stealth fighter jet “Chengdu J-20” on Tuesday, neighbouring India has started monitoring the Chinese defence activities.
The Asian giant showed off the stealth fighter jet in public for the first time at the International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in the southern city of Zhuhai on Tuesday. However, the pilots did not open weapon bay doors or perform low-speed passes in the brief and cautious routine. Two J-20 jets swept over spectators during the show’s opening ceremony in a flypast that exceeded not more than a minute, generating a deafening roar that was met with gasps and set off car alarms in a nearby parking lot.
Experts said that China has been refining designs for the J-20 to narrow a military technology gap with the US. The long-range J-20 performed its first test flight in 2011 and at least six prototypes of the aircraft have so far been produced. Although the J-20’s stealth capabilities still remain a secret, the Pentagon said that China views the technology as key to its transformation from a “predominantly territorial air force to one capable of conducting both offensive and defensive operations”. Analysts stressed that the cautious J-20 routine offered few clues about the jet’s engine, mobility and radar evading properties.
Soon after China unveiled the stealth fighter jet in Zhuhai, a senior Indian Defence Ministry official told the media that New Delhi would have to take necessary actions, if Beijing deployed the fighter jet near the Sino-Indian border. In the recent past, the Chinese Air Force said that “the J-20 will be put into service soon, but the China-India border is apparently not the ideal place for its deployment”. However, the Indian official said that Beijing might change its plan to put New Delhi under pressure.
For India, Tuesday’s air show in Zhuhai has a major implication as Pakistan has shown interest in acquiring the fifth-generation Chinese aircraft. Pakistan, the largest importer of Chinese arms, revealed that it was holding talks with China to acquire the export variant of the J-20 aircraft, FC-31, in near future. Pakistan’s acquisition will pose a serious security threat to India, which is yet to make stealth aircraft that can easily penetrate through enemy radars.
Now, India will have to think twice before sending more “BrahMos” missiles to the Sino-Indian border, as such a move could prompt Beijing to station J-20s at the Daocheng Yading airport. According to sources close to the Indian Air Force (IAF), India, too, plans to acquire fifth generation fighter jets in order to protect its borders.
Meanwhile, a section of political and defence analysts has advised both China and India to stop the arms race and take arms control seriously, saying that it will be foolish for the two neighbours to continue playing with the fire.