News Brief

China Deploys J-20 Stealth Fighters At Tibetan Airbase, 150 Km From India’ Border In Sikkim

Kuldeep Negi

Jun 01, 2024, 09:21 AM | Updated 09:21 AM IST

A J-20 stealth fighter at the 11th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition. (Representative Image)
A J-20 stealth fighter at the 11th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition. (Representative Image)

China has deployed its advanced J-20 stealth fighter jets at the high-altitude Shigatse air base in Tibet, less than 150 kilometers from the Sikkim border, NDTV reported.

According to the report, new high-resolution satellite imagery has revealed several J-20 stealth fighters, China's most advanced aircraft, landing at the Shigatse air base in Tibet.

This development places the J-20s within 300 kilometers of the Indian Air Force's base in Hasimara, Bengal, which houses the IAF's second squadron of 16 Rafale fighter aircraft tasked with defending Eastern India's Himalayan frontier.

The Indian Air Force operates two Rafale squadrons with a total of 36 jets, while China is believed to have manufactured approximately 250 J-20 stealth fighters.

Until recently, the J-20s were primarily stationed on China's eastern frontier, defending the Pacific seaboard.

The presence of at least seven J-20s at Shigatse marks a significant strategic shift and has major military implications for India.

Shigatse, the second-largest city in Tibet, is situated at an altitude of 12,408 feet and has a dual-use airport for civil and military purposes.

The deployment demonstrates the J-20's capability to operate from the harsh environment of ultra-high altitude Tibetan air bases.

Satellite images captured on 27 May show a J-20 deploying its drogue parachute to slow down upon landing at Shigatse, with other J-20s taxiing to the flight line, NDTV reported.

Another image shows a J-20 moving past a couple of Chinese F-7s, a license-built variant of Russia's MiG-21.

Sim Tack, a Geospatial analyst with All Source Analysis, which first reported the deployment, remarked, "The J-20 stealth fighter is China's most advanced operational fighter aircraft to date, and these aircraft are predominantly based in the eastern provinces of China. Seeing these aircraft appear at Shigatse in Tibet positions them on a deployment outside of their normal areas of operations and within proximity of the Indian border."

This deployment is not the first instance of the J-20 being stationed in Tibet. The jets have been observed in Xinjiang in China's Hotan prefecture between 2020 and 2023. However, this is believed to be the largest deployment of the J-20 spotted by commercially available satellite imagery.

The Chengdu J-20, also known as the Mighty Dragon, is a twin-engine stealth fighter introduced into service in 2017.

China became the third country to operationally field stealth fighters with the induction of this aircraft.

The J-20, equipped with an array of sensors, is continuously modernized. Its primary role is as an air superiority fighter, carrying China's most advanced air-to-air missiles, including the PL-15 long-range air-to-air missile, capable of striking aerial targets up to 300 kilometers away.

Also Read: What China's Deployment Of J-20 Fighter Jets Close To LAC In Tibet Means For Indian Air Force

Kuldeep is Senior Editor (Newsroom) at Swarajya. He tweets at @kaydnegi.

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