Zhuhai Airshow display reveals information on China’s J-20, J-16 inventory

Zhuhai Airshow display reveals information on China’s J-20, J-16 inventory

MELBOURNE, Australia — There are at least 200 smugglers in China J-20 fighters and more than 240 J-16 multi-role strike aircraft in service, based on an analysis by a Chinese military aviation expert of the build numbers painted on the planes.

Andreas Rupprecht, who has authored several books on China’s military aviation industry and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, told Defense News that based on the construction numbers he has seen on the planes; Zhuhai Air Showthere were four production batches of J-20s and 11 batches of J-16s.

He mentioned that two Chengdu J-20 fighter jets at the show, “CB0369” and “CB0370” were painted in small letters behind the aircraft’s canopy. Based on previous examples seen in public, or photos and videos released by China, “CB03” would indicate the planes are from the fourth production batch, with “CB00” being the first.

The last two digits of the construction number indicate the current batch number, with the airshow jets being aircraft 69 and 70 of the fourth production batch of J-20s.

He added that his “conservative estimate” based on his previous research is that the previous three production batches of J-20s had at least 18, 46 and 56 airframes, respectively. Adding 70 aircraft and approximately 18 low-cost production platforms to the fourth batch will bring total J-20 production to 208 aircraft.

The presence of J-20s on a static display at the air show allowed photographers to obtain better resolution images of the aircraft than previously possible. The planes at the Nov. 8-13 show were powered by indigenous WS-10C engines and featured low-notice saw edges on their afterburner nozzles.

Justin Bronk, senior research fellow for air power and technology at the UK-based Royal United Services Institute, said “the footage of surface detail shows just how far the Chinese aircraft industry has come in terms of manufacturing tolerances and quality control”.

Bronck told Defense News that based on photos of the J-20 low-speed pre-production aircraft that took part in a flight demonstration at the 2018 Zhuhai Air Show, “China continues to make progress in closing the gap with the US low-visibility design. »

Meanwhile, the J-16 this year carried the build number “1105” on the outside of its air intakes in a static display. According to Rupprecht, this indicates that the aircraft was the fifth of the 11th production batch.

He added that J-16 maker Shenyang Aircraft Corp. uses simpler build numbers and a production batch system, numbering 24 planes per batch. This means that the aircraft of the show, assigned to the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s 172nd Airlift Brigade, is the 245th production J-16.

It The J-16 began entering PLAAF service in 2015. It is based on the Chinese J-11B interceptor and the Russian Sukhoi Su-30MK series, both of which can trace their origins back to the Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker interceptor.

China developed it An electronic attack version of the J-16 known as the J-16D. The type made its debut at the last Zhuhai Airshow in 2021 and reappeared at this year’s show.

Mike Yeon is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.

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