Moscow pivoted to China in 2014 as its political ties with the West sank to post Cold-War lows over the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
China, Russia Expand Military Cooperation
Russia and China are holding a large-scale joint military exercise in north-central China involving more than 10,000 troops, Russia’s defence ministry said on Tuesday. The Sibu/Cooperation-2021 drills in China’s Ningxia region are being watched for signs that China and Russia are expanding military cooperation as they spar with the West.
Russia’s Kommersant newspaper said the drills taking place until Friday marked the first time Russian soldiers would use Chinese weapons. Russia and China have conducted drills since 2005.
China sends J-20 fighter jet to train with Russian forces
According to China’s state-run Global Times it is for the first time the country’s defence forces has sent the J-20 stealth fighter aircraft in a military drill with another country.
Moscow sent Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter aircraft, motorised rifle units and air defence systems to the exercise that was focused on counter-terrorism, the defence ministry said in a statement. The drills come as the Taliban has gained ground in Afghanistan where security has deteriorated as the United States withdraws its troops after two decades of war, creating a security headache for Moscow.
Separately, Russia on Tuesday completed joint drills in Tajikistan with Uzbek and Tajik forces near the Afghan border. Moscow also said it was bulking up its military base in Tajikistan with assault rifles and other weapons.
J-20 Stealth Fighters Soared Past Beijing
The PLA had unleashed swarms of J-20 fighter jets at an unprecedented scale on during China’s Communist Party celebrated its centenary celebrations last month. Fifteen J-20 stealth fighters soared past Beijing skies in formation during the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) centenary celebrations.
The event marked the largest number of warplanes exhibited by the Chinese Air Force in a single event for the general public. China has reportedly started mass production of its most sophisticated fighter jet.
The last time the J-20 fighters took to the skies in such a large formation was in 2019 during the National Day parade, however, at that time only 5 J-20 aircraft took to the skies.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force had earlier announced that its Military Development Vanguard Air Group now had the J-20 fighter.
According to China’s Global Times quoting Forbes, China had only 40 stealth fighter jets until last year but the US had 500 stealth planes.
China is now vying to catch up with the big powers as it joins the race to produce more fighters. It is still unknown how many warplanes the Communist country still possesses or its production capacity limit at the moment.
A test flight of China’s new stealth fighter jet on January 11 overshadowed a US bid to shore up uneasy military relations, underscoring a growing rivalry between the two powers.
Russian Engine Replaced
China recently upgraded the J-20 stealth fighter’s engine replacing it with a homegrown product. Chinese engineers have upgraded the Russian AL-31F engine with domestically built WS-10C engine.
J-20’s current weaponry includes two Within Visual Range (WVR) PL-10 missiles and Beyond Visual Range (BVR) PL-15 missiles. Chinese aviation experts have included twin-seat version of the J-20 aircraft.
In a tactical move to give the J-20 an edge, Chinese aviation experts are experimenting with a second crew member giving the co-pilot offensive responsibilities.
The J-20 aircraft now has new Thrust-Vector Controls (TVC) allowing pilots to perform manoeuvres at high angles during attacks.
China Begins Mass Production of J-20 Fighters
Ten years after the J-20 made its debut flight, China began mass production of the J-20 aircraft last year as it upgraded the fighter to fifth-generation class.
Reports say China is considering modifying the J-20 aircraft to host them on its aircraft carriers.
China’s J-20 stealth fighter had passed through the eastern theatre Command with Taiwan in its perimeter in July last year.
Amid reports of mass production of the J-20s, the United States announced that it has approved the sale of 105 F-35 stealth aircraft to Japan for an estimated $23.11 billion.
Russia Leans Towards China
Moscow pivoted to China in 2014 as its political ties with the West sank to post Cold-War lows over the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. China is also Russia’s biggest trade partner.
China has been involved in a clash with Western nations over several issues including trade, human rights and the controversy over the origin of the coronavirus pandemic.
Although President Biden had met Russian President Biden in June however relations between the US and Russia continue to be frosty.
China too has been the focal point of Biden administration’s foreign policy with Hong Kong and Taiwan increasingly become contentious issues between the two countries.
Xi-Putin Consolidate Relations
As relations between China and the West deteriorate, the Xi regime has increasingly looked isolated in the world arena. Putin on his part has been seeking allies in the region to consolidate his position as Beijing and Moscow look to further their already strong trade links.
The latest military exercises are taking place even as Russia on Tuesday completed joint drills in Tajikistan with Uzbek and Tajik forces near the Afghan border.
China also shares a small part of its border with Afghanistan and with the Taliban growing in strength rapidly both Putin and Xi realise a strong bond between the two countries would help to corner potential regional enemies.