USAF intel eyes new Russian, Chinese bombers in 2020s

Russia and China are poised to field new stealth bombers as soon as 2025 and 12 foreign fifth-generation fighter aircraft programs are now in development — including systems designed to challenge the F-22A and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, according to a new Air Force intelligence assessment of foreign airborne threats.

These developments are outlined in a recently completed — but undated — 31-page report, “Airborne Threats to U.S. Operations,” by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH. The volume, exclusively obtained by Inside Defense, updates a March 2010 assessment and includes for the first time a discussion of the threat from hypersonic cruise missiles as well as foreign designs on a sixth-generation fighter capability.

“China and Russia are currently the only near-peer threat countries that are equipped with the aerodynamic systems and air forces to challenge U.S. and coalition forces,” according to the report.

The report notes new medium- and long-range bomber developments by Beijing and Moscow.

“New stealth bombers are being developed in both China and Russia for the main purpose of striking global and regional targets,” the NASIC report states. “Stealth technology continues to play a key role in the [research and development] of these new bombers that are expected to reach initial operating capability in the 2025+ timeframe,” according to the Air Force report.

That timeline is similar to Air Force efforts to develop a new long-range strike bomber — an $80 billion acquisition project to begin fielding new B-21 Raider aircraft in the mid-2020s in the Asia-Pacific region.

“New Chinese and Russian bombers will have additional capability with full-spectrum upgrades over the operational bomber fleets and will employ many fifth-generation fighter technologies in their design,” according to the report — which includes illustrations of a sleek “Future Chinese Fighter-Bomber Concept” with two tail fins and a Russian PAK-DA concept illustration that resembles a B-2 with winglets. The artwork in the Air Force report came from Chinese and Russian internet websites, according to the report.

Whereas the 2010 report noted only two foreign fifth-generation fighters in development — the PAF-FA, also known as the T-50, by Russia and India as well as the XXJ, now known as the J-20, by China — the new NASIC report identifies 10 other foreign fifth-generation fighter aircraft in development for a total of 12 new combat aircraft programs.

“The rest of the world is developing fifth-generation aircraft technology,” the report states. “India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Sweden and Turkey have stated they are all developing fifth-generation air dominance.”

China is also developing the J-31 — officially dubbed the FC-31 — and Russia the Mikoyan LMFS, a single-engine multirole stealth fighter as well as the “MFP” program, according to the Air Force report.

India is developing the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft, a multirole system as well as working with Russia on a fifth-generation aircraft derived from the T-50.

Japan is funding the ATD-X program, also known as the Mitsubishi X-2, a project in support of potential plans for a stealth fighter and Sweden is working on the Flygsystem 2020, a project to develop a stealth fighter by the next decade. South Korea is developing the KF-X, Turkey the TFX and Iran, according to the Air Force report, is developing the Qaher 313.

Even as efforts to develop fifth-generation fighter aircraft program take root, the NASIC report notes interest in a follow-on capability: a sixth-generation fighter. “Foreign nations have not finalized plans or requirements for a sixth-generation aircraft, though research and development has begun,” according to NASIC, which illustrates this point with an artist’s concept of a Chinese military sixth-generation fighter.

The report includes a brief discussion of threats to U.S. military operations posed by a new class of high-speed weapons: hypersonic cruise missiles.

“India and Russia are currently developing a hypersonic (> Mach 5) cruise missile called the Brahmos-II,” according to the report. “The Brahmos-II program’s stated goal is to achieve a range of 165 [nautical miles] and a speed of about Mach 7,” the report states. — Jason Sherman

Source: Inside Defense “USAF intel eyes new Russian, Chinese bombers in 2020s”

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


One Comment on “USAF intel eyes new Russian, Chinese bombers in 2020s”

  1. Steve says:

    By 2020 timeframe, there will be a total of five fully commissioned stealth fighters, from China the J-20 & J-31, Russia the T-50 PakFa and US the F-22 & F-35. There will be prototypes from stealth fighter producing countries taking to the skies prior to 2020.