The Reason Why America’s F-35 Would Crush China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter in Battle


F-35. Image: Flickr/Official U.S. Navy/CC by 2.0

F-35. Image: Flickr/Official U.S. Navy/CC by 2.0

Dave Majumdar August 10, 2016

The United States Air Force would maintain an “asymmetric” advantage over potential adversaries in the Western Pacific even after the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force inducts the Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter into operational service. That’s the contention of the service’s top uniformed officer—who was asked about the potential geopolitical implications of the introduction of the new Chinese warplane.

“When we apply fifth-generation technology, it’s no longer about a platform, it’s about a family of systems,” Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein told reporters at the Pentagon on Aug. 10. “It’s about a network and that’s what gives us an asymmetrical advantage, so that why when I hear about an F-35 versus a J-20, it’s almost an irrelevant question.”

Indeed, as Goldfein noted, the Air Force will likely to continue its focus on a family of systems approach where networking and the sharing of data are key instead of fixating on the performance of individual platforms. A direct comparison of the Lockheed Martin F-35 and the J-20—in Goldfein’s view—would harken back to the his days of flying the Lockheed Martin F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter—which was almost entirely cut off from outside contact when buttoned down to penetrate enemy airspace. “You’ll see us focusing far more on the family of systems and how we connect them together and far less on individual platforms,” Goldfein said.

While Goldfein used the Nighthawk as a comparison—he probably did not intend to suggest that the J-20’s systems are quite as basic as the 1980s-era F-117. While accurate information about the J-20 is scarce, there are indications that the Chinese aircraft is equipped with a phased array radar, a robust electronic warfare systems and an electro-optical/infrared sensor that is similar in concept to the F-35’s systems. However, while it is possible that the Chinese aircraft might have decent sensors—Air Force officials have suggested that the J-20 lacks the “sensor fusion” and networking to be as effective as the F-22 or F-35.

One area that the Chinese are almost certainly lacking is what Air Combat Command commander Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle once described to me as “spike management.” Fifth-generation aircraft such as the F-22 and F-35 have cockpit displays that indicate to the pilot the various angles and ranges from which their aircraft can be detected and tracked by various enemy radars. The pilots use that information to evade the enemy by making sure to avoid zones where they could be detected and engaged. It is a technology that took decades for the United States to master—through a lot of trial and error.

Meanwhile, at the same press conference, Air Force secretary Deborah Lee James decried the possibility of facing another year where the Congress fails to pass a budget. Even if Congress passes a full year continuing resolution (CR)—which maintains the previous year’s spending levels—it would massively disrupt the Air Force’s procurement efforts because the service would not be able to award new start program contracts. “We certainly hope that won’t be the case, we know the Congressional staffs are working very hard even while their members are back home this summer, but we are hearing that either a six-month CR or one-year CR is at least a possibility,” James said.

Indeed, Congressional sources are not optimistic about the prospects for a new budget in the fall. Thus, the Pentagon faces additional budget turbulence even as it grapples with a readiness crisis.

Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for The National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @davemajumdar.

Source: National Interest “The Reason Why America’s F-35 Would Crush China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter in Battle”

Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

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11 Comments on “The Reason Why America’s F-35 Would Crush China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter in Battle”

  1. Steve says:

    It’s All about stealth platforms and multiple support systems. The US so called asymmetric advantage over potential adversaries did not work in Syria against the Russian family of support systems. The US radar was jammed. The US did not bother sending it’s F-22.. So what US family of systems.? The US cannot guarantee that their systems are definitely superior to the Chinese support systems. The F-35 platform itself may even be inferior to the J-20. We have to wait and see

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    • Biggles says:

      This so-called “flying computer” is a fragile little thing and hugely expensive.

      As admitted, it takes a long time for the network system in just one plane to boot up. And then again, it is prone to glitches. Just one subsystem fails to boot up and the entire system fails. They just have to keep re-booting the system .. even when they are in the air. Imagine the radar subsystem or the munition subsystem breaks down, then the entire system have to be re-booted all over again, even in mid air. By which time, the enemy would have either shot you down or “escaped”. Multiply this by, say, 8 planes, and you have high risk of the entire networking covering all 8 planes, not working at all, all the time.

      The “flying computer” – a highly sensitive fragile electronic entity – seems to be a flunky little thing prone to failure. No wonder Singapore has decided not to buy this dud now.

      And at the cost of trillions of US dollar to develop it (the mind boggles at the expenditure) the Americans are so sensitive to any plane being shot down. That is why the minute it is detected, it turns tail and flee. They cannot afford to lose such planes made of “gold”.

      Last but not least, as the Russians say, the more electronically advanced your war machine is, the easier it is to take it down. Expect the F-35 to be easily jammed or any of its system or subsystems hacked or “malwarerized” anytime.

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      • Biggles says:

        Oh, and electro-magnetically pulsified. EMP-ized. The F-35 that is. Whether from the ground or in the air. Just a spark and all its electronic and electrical components and devices will be fried.

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      • Biggles says:

        Ahh … the F-35 has a limited range insofar as their radar is concerned. It is will be detected at a distance even before its smart radar can become operative.

        Like all things American these days, it’s a lot of hype and little of humility.

        Poor Britain, Canada and Australia …. forced to buy even when they do NOT want to.

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        • Steve says:

          Have U seen the Two American Comedian on Roadshow “Trumpy and Hilly.”

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        • A Nobody says:

          Not to mentioned that the F-35 is not allowed to fly in bad weather; Especially electrical storms or where there are lightnings. Just one strike or contact and the entire plane’s systems is fried. So sensitive …. ha ha ha.

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  2. johnleecan says:

    If F-35 can enable pilots to use information to evade the enemy by making sure to avoid zones where they could be detected and engaged, why isn’t it used in Syria? Why did USA grounded all their planes from doing sorties in Syria when Russia deployed their S300?

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  3. johnleecan says:

    “It is a technology that took decades for the United States to master—through a lot of trial and error.”

    Is that the reason why F-35 is riddled with problems because it takes decades to master by Trial and Error?

    Well, American technology is different from China. It’s hard to make a conclusion if America only has a little knowledge of China’s jet fighters. Maybe the US Air force just want to increase their pilots confidence if ever they went to war with China or show that their F-35 is superior so other countries will buy them or just to scare the PLA air force or all of the above.

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  4. Joseph says:

    Sure, the F-35 would crush China’s J-20 in battle, on paper. But to do that, the F-35 must get its heavy butt off the ground first with the engine specified by the paper. So far, the F-35s are only equipped with outdated engines, the F-35s is lucky to do bombing run to the likes of Libya or Iraq with only one refueling, where the old F-15s or even F-16s did not need even one.
    Of course if the F-35 really has the capability to ‘crush’ the J-20, the American do not need to wage media warfare to scare anyone with the F-35 ‘capabilities’. Even on the article itself, Dave Majumbar specified the favorable conditions were ‘if’ the Chinese didn’t have adequate infrastructure and pilot trainings and the J-20 was a hastily assembled aircraft. Well the Chinese has the infrastructure, pilot trainings and mature aircrafts, thus the conditions on the article were clearly outdated. When was this Dave Majumbar supposed to published this article originally? 5 years ago, I suppose. Talking about being hopelessly clumsy.

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