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China adds additional J-16s, J-20s to operational units

China is continuing to induct SAC J-16 multirole fighters into the service as part of its modernisation of the air force. (VCG via Getty Images/Qian Baihua)

China has augmented its operational units with additional numbers of Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) J-16 multirole and Chengdu Aircraft Industries (Group) Company (CAC) J-20 stealth fighter aircraft.

Janes assesses that China may have inducted 15 new SAC J-16s and 11 CAC J-20 fifth-generation stealth fighters into service since January 2023. These inductions support ongoing efforts by the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) to replace its older aircraft.

With these additions, the PLAAF potentially has 233 J-16s in service (not counting seven specialist J-16D electronic warfare (EW) aircraft) and as many as 127 J-20As, according to Janes Satellite Imagery and Analysis (JSIA).

The data suggest that J-20As are augmenting PLAAF air brigades equipped with CAC J-10 Meng Long single-engine fighters and J-16s. In some cases, such as with the 56th Air Brigade, J-20As could be replacing J-10B and J-10AS aircraft operational within that unit.

Inductions of J-16s have been ongoing. At least three PLAAF air brigades are trading their ‘legacy' aircraft for J-16s from 2022. From May 2023 a fourth air brigade also started to receive J-16s.

According to Chinese state-owned media, this unit is within the PLA's Eastern Theater Command (ETC). Assessments by JSIA indicate that this is likely the 95th Air Brigade.

The unit is based at Lianyungang-Baitabu in the northeastern part of China's Jiangsu province. China Central Television (CCTV) also reported that the new unit conducted familiarisation and training sorties from northeastern Jiangsu.

The unit was equipped with 28 fourth-generation SAC J-11B combat aircraft and eight of it is dual-cockpit variant, the SAC J-11BS, according to Janes

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