China Military Shows Off New Stealth Fighter Jet Missiles to Stunned Onlookers

The Chinese armed forces have publicly displayed the missile payload of their latest stealth fighter, with local experts claiming the aircraft could potentially trump competitors in the United States.

Several Chengdu J-20 stealth fifth-generation fighter jets soared Sunday through the skies of southeastern China as part of the 12th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong province. During one flypast, pilots opened the aircraft's missile bay, revealing four missiles, in addition to two additional missiles mounted on the underside of the plane.

The Global Times, an official organ of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, reported that audible "wow"s could be heard among spectators as the aircraft flew over and said experts ranked its capabilities as superior to the U.S.-built F-22 and F-35 jets. The article cited defense analyst Song Zhongping as identifying the four missiles in the J-20's bay as long-range air-to-air missiles and the two on the side as short-range combat weapons.

He said the J-20 could be equipped with a variety of weapons, making it versatile as well as powerful.

Two Chinese Chengdu J-20 fifth-generation stealth fighters fly at the 12th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, November 11. The advanced aircraft has been compared to near-peer competitors in the U.S. and Russia. People's Liberation Army

The event was held in commemoration of the 69th anniversary of the People's Liberation Army Air Force, the aerial wing of the world's largest standing military force. China has long sought to modernize its defenses and, under President Xi Jinping, has enacted sweeping reforms set to reorganize the armed forces and introduce new equipment.

In May, China first revealed it was conducting advanced stealth tests for the J-20 and a report published in June by another Communist Party-run newspaper, China Youth Daily, claimed the development of the J-20 gave the country a newfound status shared only by the U.S. and Russia. The U.S. and Russia both have fifth-generation stealth jets in the form of the F-22A Raptor and Sukhoi Su-57 PAK-FA, respectively, though but many experts note that the U.S. remains significantly ahead in terms of strength and experience.

Speaking to a press conference Sunday at the Zhuhai air show, Chinese air force deputy commander Lieutenant General Xu Anxiang revealed a three-step roadmap toward renovating the country's aerial military capabilities, as the official China Military Online reported. He said that by 2020, China would integrate space and aerial warfare as well as strike and defensive techniques using fifth-generation aircraft as well as earlier models. Xu said that the branch would also update its theory, organization and equipment by 2035 and, finally, achieve a world-class force by 2050, a goal previously established by Xi.

Griffith Asia Institute fellow and former Australian military officer Peter Layton noted to CNN that the J-20 appeared to be using engines built in Russia, suggesting the Chinese researchers were still running into trouble in powering the aircraft indigenously. As the top rivals of the U.S. military, China and Russia have sought closer defense ties and have frequently trained together.

Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday that Russia and China "can challenge our ability to project power and challenge us in all domains," noting that he considered them to be near-peer competitors, but not enemies. In addition to an ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China, the two countries differ over Beijing's sweeping territorial claims to the South China Sea and self-ruling Taiwan.

A Chinese Chengdu J-20 fifth-generation stealth fighters fly at the 12th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, November 11. For the first time, the aircraft's missile bay was opened to the public, revealing what was reportedly six long-range air-to-air missiles, in addition to two mounted short-range combat missiles. China Military Online

In addition to the J-20, the J-10B fighter jet, JH-7 fighter-bomber, Y-20 military transport aircraft, the KJ-500 early warning aircraft and GJ-2 unmanned aerial vehicle made appearances at China's largest air show, according to China Military Online.

"The six-day exhibition has attracted more than 770 exhibitors from 43 countries and regions, with a 10 percent year-on-year growth. Up to 200 military, political and trade delegations from more than 50 countries visited the Airshow," the site said in an article published Monday.

"What's more, the air exhibition has attracted about 150,000 professional visitors and 300,000 amateur visitors, receiving an order of 239 aircraft of all kinds at the fair," it added. "The scale of the exhibition has reached a new high, improving not only in quantity but also quality."