In 2015, photos of a brand new Chinese fighter jet had gone viral the world over - inviting both admirations as well as sparking fear. Close to three years later, reports suggest the F-16 multi-purpose fighter jets may have completed combat trails and are possibly already inducted into the country's People's Liberation Army Air Force.
China is on the fast-track to modernise its military and military arsenal to make them directly rival the US and Russia. Developing cutting-edge weapons and machines is an integral part of Xi Jinping's plans and the indigenously made J-16 jets are seen as a prime example of this.
Local Chinese media previously reported that the J-16 - designed and manufactured by Shenyang Aircraft Industry Group - is a multi-role fighter/bomber variant, based on the J-11BS with longer range and upgraded avionics. It has a marginally different vertical stabiliser than the J-11 fighter jets and the J-15 naval fighter jets. It has in-flight refuelling capabilities and a radar and tracking system.
South China Morning Post recently reported that the J-16 is not as advanced as the J-20s but may have already been inducted into the country's air force as a key part of possible operations against Taiwan and as a deterrent to the US. Quoting military observers, the report says that based on serial numbers seen, it is very possible that J-16s are already in service.