By Liu Xuanzun

BEIJING - The People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force is now flying a new type of warplane that is based on the JH-7 fighter bomber, which Chinese military experts said is likely to have enhanced flight performance and firepower compared to its predecessors.

The Chinese Air Force sent multiple types of aircraft, including the JH-7AⅡ, to the Aviadarts competition in Russia under the International Army Games 2019, according to a report by the Xinhua News Agency on Tuesday.

The JH-7AⅡ was seen during a static display at the opening ceremony of the competition, the report said.

This is the first time this designation has been made public, Weihutang, a column on military affairs affiliated with China Central Television, reported on Wednesday, noting that the previous updated version of the JH-7 fighter bomber was known as the JH-7A.

The two reports did not provide details on the difference between the JH-7AⅡ and the JH-7A.

Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military analyst, told the Global Times on Thursday that while the aerodynamic design of the JH-7AⅡ does not appear to vary much from the JH-7A, the aircraft's internal systems could have been upgraded.

The JH-7AⅡ might be equipped with a more advanced radar and avionics system, enhancing its flight performance, Wei said, noting that it can likely carry more weapons, giving it even more firepower and improved accuracy.

Participating in a competition held abroad shows the newly upgraded warplane is technically mature and available for combat duty, Wei said.

Some Chinese military observers said previously that there was not much room for improvement of the JH-7 series. Some even suggested the PLA might retire the JH-7, especially after China commissioned in recent years the new J-16 fighter jet, which can also double as a fighter bomber.

The debut of the JH-7AⅡ broke those rumors as it appears that the JH-7 series of warplanes will remain a powerful tool in the hands of the PLA, the Weihutang report said.