China’s J-16 fighter jets are quietly being introduced to the People’s Liberation Army Air Force at a faster rate than the country’s new fifth-generation J-20, though the latter has garnered much more international attention.
At least two new squadrons of J-16 fighter jets have been added or are in the process of converting to J-16 squadrons, Defense News reported Wednesday, citing images recently published by the Chinese Ministry of National Defense. With the additions, the PLAAF has at least three J-16 units in its arsenal: the 172nd, the 173rd and the 98th brigades, Defense News noted.
The J-16 is an indigenously built fighter modeled after Russia's multi-role Su-30 Flanker fighter jet, which aviation experts consider to fare favorably against the US F-15 Strike Eagle. China's air force and navy also operate the Su-30. The J-16 is more advanced that the J-11 (which is itself modeled on the closely related Su-27) in the sense that it is well-suited for ground strike missions as well as air-to-air combat.