China's PLA Orders More Stealth Fighter Jets amid India Border Tensions

China's People's Liberation Army has ordered a new batch of heavy stealth fighter jets to be deployed on its western front as a protracted border clash with India enters its seventh month, Chinese state media said Tuesday.

The PLA's Western Theater Command commissioned a new fleet of Shenyang J-16 strike fighters for its air force, which already has two J-16 combat units, Chinese Communist Party newspaper Global Times reported.

The requisition of more multirole J-16 aircraft is understood to be part of a military build-up on China's border with India, where violent melees in Ladakh along the 2,100-mile Line of Actual Control caused the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese troops this summer.

The new squadron of J-16s will help the air force to "better safeguard China's territorial integrity," the newspaper said, claiming the Chinese-made warplanes were more technically advanced than those on the other side of the border.

A modified product of the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, the J-16 has integrated avionics and weapons systems developed by the Chinese military. It is a highly maneuverable, heavy payload fighter jet which carries air-to-air and anti-ship missiles, as well as guided bombs.

China has a total of six J-16 combat units, each comprising between 32 and 36 aircraft, local media reports said. A military analyst described the model as being second only to the country's Chengdu J-20 "Might Dragon" air superiority fighter, according to Global Times.

PLA Air Force J-16
PLA Air Force J-16
PLA Air Force J-16

On Saturday, the PLA's Western Theater Command Air Force shared images of its latest aerial combat exercises involving J-16s equipped with the military's special coat of "cloaking" paint, which it said reduces the jet's visibility on enemy radar and also makes it harder to spot with the naked eye.

The press release put on Chinese social media platform WeChat said its pilots were trained in short-distance dogfighting, and that its squadrons would all be replaced by J-16s by the end of the year.

The deployment of further J-16s to the disputed border territory means they will join an assortment of existing Russian hardware in the region.

The J-16 is a derivative of the Soviet-era Sukhoi Su-30, which Russia also developed into the Sukhoi Su-30MKI for the Indian Air Force, and the Sukhoi Su-30MKK for the Chinese Air Force.

Earlier this month, representatives from the Indian and Chinese armies met for an eighth round of dialog aimed at a peaceful de-escalation of the border conflict, which began back in May.

However, recent reports said both China and India were fortifying their positions in Ladakh, across the entire disputed LAC, no sign of either side backing down.

PLA Air Force J-16
Chinese-made J-16 fighter jets conduct close-quarters dogfighting aerial exercises, the People's Liberation Army Western Theater Command Air Force said in a press release on November 21, 2020. Western Theater Command Air Force