By Zhang Zhihao
The Chinese Air Force aims to expand its effective combat zone to cover the entire country, signaling that it has become an all-around, modern, combat-ready force, a spokesman said on Friday.
China's most advanced stealth fighter jet, the J-20, and the newest military transport aircraft, the Y-20, have recently entered formation training, Senior Colonel Shen Jinke said at a ceremony ahead of Saturday's 68th anniversary of the People's Liberation Army Air Force.
The new planes are important parts of the Air Force and are fully capable of combat, he said, adding that many pilots are capable of flying the new J-20, as well as previous models such as the J-16 and J-10C fighter jets.
"The J-20 fighter jet has further improved the Air Force's combat capabilities. ... The Y-20 heavy transport aircraft is a crucial element for improving China's aerial logistics and delivery abilities," he said.
"The Air Force will become a modern fighting force integrated with air and space technologies and capable of both offense and defense."
The PLA Air Force aims to be able to provide protection and fight battles across the entire nation's territory and airspace, he said. It will become an important factor in managing critical situations, as well as preventing and winning wars.
China currently operates an active combat aircraft fleet around 1,530 planes, exceeded only by the 2,785 aircraft of the US military, according to a 2016 report by Flight International, a prestigious aviation journal.
In the past five years, the Chinese Air Force has made "historical achievements in improving combat preparedness and capability," Shen said.
The Air Force's reach has expanded from land to distant oceans, passing various island chains, straits and aiming toward the western Pacific, Shen said. This allows the force to be more effective in protecting China's sovereignty and security, he added.
To address new aerial threats, the Air Force will accelerate and strengthen its anti-missile and air defense capabilities to create a defense system capable of intercepting all types of aerial assaults from any height, Shen said.
It will also strengthen cooperation and exchanges with foreign air forces, he said.