In recent years, the PLA Air Force has been equipped with J-16 heavy fighters, in increasing numbers.

The J-16 is said to have advanced stealth coatings, modern avionics and electronic warfare systems, and the PL-15 long-range missile, which is self-guided by AESA radar. Currently, the J-16 plays the role of the main fighter of the Chinese Air Force, cooperating with other fighter aircraft such as J-11, J-10, J-7 and H-6 bomber near Taiwan. The J-16 also serves as an escort for other military aircraft, such as the KJ-500 airborne early warning aircraft and the Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft.

The Taiwan Strait is only about 130 km wide, currently considered the hottest sea in the world. Stakeholders regularly take actions that cause tension in the region. The Taipei government is not recognized by the United Nations; but Taiwan still receives fighters and other modern weapons from the United States. Of course, the US refused to supply Taiwan with modern F-35 stealth fighters, but only sold to Taiwan the modernized light fighter F-16V; but fully capable of confronting Chinese fighters.

Shenyang J-16
Shenyang J-16

Currently Taiwan does not have many modern fighters; meanwhile, the Chinese Air Force has deployed many aircraft with superior combat performance compared to Taiwanese fighters; frequently infiltrated Taiwan’s airspace as a show of force. If a war occurs now and in the near future, it is expected that the PLA Air Force J-16 will act as the main combat force, taking on both the task of intercepting and destroying surface and ground targets.

The J-16 made its maiden flight on October 17, 2011, and it is gradually replacing older fighters like the J-7. Compared with the current fighters of the Taiwan Self-Defense Force, the J-16 has a larger radar and much better anti-jamming capability. Low radar signature and armed with advanced PL-15 air-to-air missile that has a longer range than any of the island’s missiles, is a significant advantage of the J-16.

The J-16 has a lower operation cost and is much cheaper than the J-20 fifth-generation stealth fighter. It is more versatile and well-suited to air-to-ground missions, meaning it could play a more important role in a potential war in the Taiwan Strait. In a conflict, the PLA Air Force’s J-20 stealth fighter could be devoted to dealing with third parties such as the US and Japan; while the J-16 will overwhelm Taiwan’s fighters.

Taiwan recently ordered 66 F-16Vs from the US. This is the most upgraded version of the famous F-16 series, equipped with many technologies of 5th generation fighters such as AESA radar, AIM-120C air-to-air missiles. Taiwan is completely confident with the F-16V that it can confront China’s J-16 fairly. However, delivery of these aircraft begins at the end of 2026; Therefore, at this time, Taiwan has no aircraft that is a worthy opponent of the J-16.


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