China has commissioned its latest J-20 stealth fighter into its air force's combat service, taking a lead in the region in operating fighter jets designed to avoid detection, state media reported.
The new generation J-20 stealth fighter will help China narrow its military gap with the United States, commentators said.
State-run Xinhua news agency quoted an Air Force spokesman as saying that the stealth fighter has been commissioned into the force. In a short statement, the air force said the J-20 had been commissioned into combat units.
The J-20 will further raise the air force's combat abilities and help the air force better carry out its ''sacred mission'' to defend the country's sovereignty, security and territorial integrity, the air force said.
The J-20 is Chinas fourth-generation medium and long- range fighter jet. It made its maiden flight in 2011 and was first shown to the public at the 11th Air Show China in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, in November 2016.
Its introduction could add a new dimension in the India-China air force balance as India is yet acquire a stealth fighter.
The US air force operates the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor which is the fifth generation stealth air superiority fighter.
Questions remain whether the new Chinese fighter can match the radar-evading properties of the F-22 air-to-air combat jet, or the latest strike jet in the US arsenal, Lockheed's F-35. The F-22, developed for the US Air Force, is the J-20's closest lookalike.
China showed off another stealth fighter it is developing, the J-31, at the Zhuhai air show in 2014, a show of muscle that coincided with a visit by US President Barack Obama for an Asia-Pacific summit.
China hopes the J-31, still in development, will compete with the US-made F-35 stealth aircraft in the international market, according to state media reports.
China's air force is taking an increasingly active role in power projection, with exercises over both the disputed South and East China Seas and near to self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its territory.