Special Report

Every Airplane in the Chinese Military

The People’s Republic of China intensified its military activity around Taiwan ahead of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-governed island on July 2, the first visit there by a high-level U.S. official in 25 years -and one that has rankled Beijing. 

“Several Chinese fighter jets flew close to the median line that divides the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday morning, according to a Taiwanese official briefed on the developments,” reported the Financial Times ahead of the controversial visit.   

China conducted its air show to exhibit how quickly it could deploy military aircraft to “the precious island of our motherland,” said a Chinese Air Force spokesman, according to Reuters.

Though the specific jets involved in the latest brinkmanship between two military superpowers weren’t listed in media reports, it’s likely the aircraft showcased the latest and most advanced additions to China’s growing aerial arsenal. (It certainly qualifies already as one of the countries with the strongest military might.)

In April, China redeployed a number of its Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter jets to the country’s south in order to patrol the South China and East China seas, including waters around Taiwan, and to counter two U.S. aircraft carrier groups loaded with F-35 stealth fighter jets. China is believed to have 19 active Chengdu J-20 jets, also known as Mighty Dragons.

To compile a list of every plane in China’s military, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the World Directory of Modern Military Aircraft on the different types of aircraft in service as of June 2022 in the Chinese army, navy, and air force. Aircraft are ordered by total count. Information on first flights also comes from the WDMMA. Helicopters were excluded from this list, as were planes that are on order, according to the WDMMA, but not yet delivered. (By way of comparison, here’s a list of every plane in Russia’s air force.)

Click here to see every airplane in the Chinese armed forces.

The armed forces currently boast 2,312 aircraft, excluding helicopters, with roughly half of the total fleet comprised of fighter jets like the Chengdu J-10 (aka Firebird), the carrier-based Shenyang J-15 (Flying Shark), the Nanchang Q-5 ground-attack aircraft, and the Russian Sukhois. 

China’s oldest military aircraft (based on the year of their first flights) are the Xian H-6 bomber, which will soon to be supplemented with or replaced by the Xian H-20 stealth bomber, and a Chinese-built version of a Soviet MiG. Active Chinese planes that have had first flights since 2010 include the stealthy Mighty Dragon, the Shenyang J-16 strike fighter, and the Shaanxi Y-9 military transport plane.

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