The People"s Liberation Army Air Force has begun training its pilots a new airstrike tactic that involves all of its best fighter jets.
An Air Force aviation unit in northwestern China, the first to use the PLA"s most advanced fighter jet, the J-20, has recently been performing joint tactical exercises with J-16 and J-10C aircraft, according to the Air Force.
In the exercises, the radar-evading J-20s take advantage of their situational awareness and stealth abilities to seize air superiority. Then J-16s and J-10Cs launch long-range precision strikes against land targets.
The J-20 has displayed not only overwhelming air combat superiority in the drills, but also a crucial ability to clear the path for and coordinate combat with other types of fighter jets, the Air Force said in a statement. It added that many pilots in the unit are able to fly all of the three top planes.
He Xing, a pilot taking part in the drills, was quoted by the statement as saying that the unit"s pilots are trained to operate J-20, J-16 and J-10C to familiarize themselves with the aircraft and get to know their strengths and weaknesses.
"Then we will be able to know how to use the advantages of a certain type of plane to complement other models and how to make the best use of each aircraft," he said.
Yang Wei, chief designer of the J-20 at Aviation Industry Corp of China, said in a China Central Television program about the exercises that the J-20 was designed to carry out strike operations to help obtain air combat superiority.
The J-20, the first of China"s fifth-generation combat aircraft, made its maiden flight in January 2011 and was declassified in November 2016. It started to be commissioned to the Air Force in 2017, becoming the third stealth fighter jet to enter service, after the United States" F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II.
It has been sent to take part in a series of combat exercises and has practiced beyond-visual-range aerial fighting maneuvers during the drills, according to the Air Force.
The jet bears the important responsibility of clearing a path for other aircraft in an air battle, according to Zhang Hao, head of an Air Force flight-testing center that has deployed the jet.
The J-16 and J-10C are also among China"s latest combat aircraft and were developed by Chinese designers. They were delivered to the Air Force around 2017, according to the Air Force.