Over the past few years, China has been rallying its military might in the Pacific, possibly with the intent of taking back Taiwan. By building up its navy and air force, the People’s Liberation Army is seeking to project power and gain influence on the global stage.
The rise of China in global politics has been accompanied by the expansion of its military capabilities. One significant aspect of this development is the modernization of the Chinese air force. With an impressive array of active planes, the Chinese air force is playing a key role in extending China’s dominance in the region and beyond. See where China ranks on this list of the largest air forces in the world.
To identify all of the planes in active service in the Chinese air force, 24/7 Wall St. referenced the 2023 report World Air Forces from FlightGlobal, an aviation and aerospace industry website. We ranked aircraft by the number of units in active service. We excluded combat helicopters and trainer aircraft from this list. Supplemental data regarding the type of aircraft and how many are in active service came from FlightGlobal. Data on each aircraft’s first flight came from various military and historical sources.
Large portions of China’s air power consist of combat aircraft, ranging from air superiority fighters and multi-role combat jets to ground attack and bomber planes. The primary function of these aircraft is to contest aerial superiority by engaging enemy aircraft and to carry out strategic and precision strikes. The J-10, J-11, J-16, Su-27, and J-7 are among the most prominent operational Chinese combat aircraft, strategically designed and developed to cover a wide range of air missions.
The J-20 stealth fighter stands out from the rest of the fleet as a fifth-generation fighter jet. It boasts low-observability, radar-evading airframes, and advanced avionics, which enable the aircraft to effectively avoid enemy detection. (Also see, the U.S. military’s fastest planes.)
Transport aircraft are another essential element of the Chinese air force. Large transport aircraft, such as the Y-20, Y-9, and Il-76, have the crucial responsibility of supplying troops during conflicts, helping with humanitarian aid operations, and conducting strategic airlifts.
The Chinese air force’s active fleet is demonstrative of China’s dedication to investing in and advancing its military power. Whether it is via combat planes, transport aircraft, or special mission aircraft, China is ready to prove itself on the world stage.
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