The J-20 was developed as a foil to advanced U.S. fighters, including fourth generation F-16 Fighting Falcons and F/A-18 Hornets and, more directly, fifth-generation F-22 Raptors and F-35 Lightning fighters.
In 2009, a breach of F-35 project resulted in the theft of several terabytes of data. Though the attack was never publicly attributed to China by the U.S. government, visual similarities in the chassis of the J-20 to the F-35 have led commentators to speculate that the stolen F-35 intellectual property helped state-owned Chengdu Aerospace Corporation develop their fighter.
The J-20’s combat capabilities are unproven, but it is believed to serve the role of the PLAAF’s primary strike fighter going forward, potentially filling an air superiority and long-range strike role as well.
China’s other modern stealth fighter, the Shenyang J-31, is primarily poised to compete with U.S. and Russian offerings on the international market.
China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter Makes Its Debut at the 2016 Zhuhai Airshow