'Giant leap': China's 5th-gen stealth fighter enters service

Chinese J-20 stealth fighters have reportedly joined the country's People's Liberation Army's airforce.

CCTV did not say how many J-20 fighter jets were serving in the air force, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported today.

The speed of the craft's development outpaced that of the F-35, and was specifically built to exploit a weakness in the US Air Force airborne early warning and control aircraft, and unarmed aerial refuelers.

The futuristic aircraft are said to have longer range, more internal fuel capacity and a larger weapons capacity than the US' F-22 and F-35 fighters, according to the jet's designers. The aircraft was publicly unveiled at the Zhuhai airshow in November previous year.

Highlighting J-20 features, an official in the PLAAF told media in Zhuhai previous year that "J-20 contains many of China's top technologies in stealth aircraft plus other military secrets".

According to Reuters, the Chinese navy has been playing an active role in recent months with its first aircraft carrier sailing around Taiwan.

With President Donald Trump promising a USA shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the US Navy.

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The People's Liberation Army Navy deputy chief of staff Wang Weiming told Xinhua on the sidelines of the annual legislative meeting that China is speeding up the development of a marine corps, adding that destroyers and frigates and will step up air and sea patrols. "Our sailors should stay vigilant and be able to deal with emergencies at all times". The new carrier is expected to enter service around 2020, along with the Liaoning, China's only other aircraft carrier.

Li Yanming, political commissar of the Navy's armaments department, said that a "first-class navy should be equipped with first-class armaments".

Beijing is seeking to modernise and upgrade its military both to protect its borders and project power into regions such as the South China Sea, a resource-rich strategic waterway where it has disputes with several neighbours.

On Monday, Beijing announced that its defense budget would increase by 7 percent, adding a little over $150 billion, roughly a quarter of what Washington spends annually.

China also recently sent its first aircraft carrier, an overhauled Ukrainian ship, for a debut voyage into the Pacific.

Wang Huayong, the deputy political commissar of the Eastern Theater Command, said, that, "The aircraft carrier is still in training and trial stage".