China’s New Fighter Jet Can’t Touch the US Planes It Rips Off

The J-20 fighter jet flew publicly for the first time at the Zuhai Air Show on November 1, 2016.Stringer/AP Images

The J-20 fighter jet flew publicly for the first time at the Zuhai Air Show on November 1, 2016.Stringer/AP Images

America’s F-22 Raptor can easily handle China’s new J-20 fighter jet, analysts say. US Air Force

America’s F-22 Raptor can easily handle China’s new J-20 fighter jet, analysts say. US Air Force

By Eric Adams 11.07.16. 7:00 am.

China’s Chengdu J-20 fighter jet, which made its public debut at China’s Zhuhai Airshow last week, cuts an imposing, even frightening, figure.

The supersonic, twin-engine fighter and attack aircraft packs advanced radar and sensor capabilities, with a 360-degree helmet display system that allows the pilot to see through the aircraft itself. It boasts the same kind of stealth technologies the US Air Force has been honing for decades. And it’s bigger than the F-22 Raptor it rivals, so it can carry more fuel and more weapons, extending its lethality deep into enemy territory.

The jet’s debut generated ripples of panic across the globe in the wake of its boisterous exhaust. Can this plane best the best of Western stealth tech, the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters?

Nope. The J-20 is no F-22, and nowhere does it fall shorter than with its most critical trait: dodging detection. “At best, it’s probably stealthy only from the front,” says aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia, of the Teal Group. “Whereas all-aspect stealth like that in the F-22 and F-35 minimizes the radar signature from all directions.”

True stealth relies on the shape of the aircraft, its exhaust, material composition, cockpit shielding, and even flight characteristics. Aboulafia doubts the J-20’s designers have the science down. Just note that screaming exhaust: “It sounds great, but you really don’t want that in a stealth fighter,” he says.

The US alleges a Chinese national hacked into its defense contractor computers to steal plans for the F-22 and the F-35—it sentenced Su Bin to three years in jail for the crime in March—but that data alone wouldn’t be enough to pull off a truly stealthy design. Those blueprints don’t reveal everything, Aboulafia says. “It’s also how it’s built, from the construction processes to all the little details in terms of design tolerances and things like disruptions in surface smoothness from hatches and panels.”

The J-20 technically counts as a fifth-generation fighter—it’s got the same sort of tech and capability of its contemporaries—but it lacks the breadth of know-how and technological innovation you see in American jets.

Take the J-20 front canards, the elevator-like surfaces ahead of the wing. They’re no good for stealth flight, and they’re likely there to counteract an inherent instability in the design. The J-20 lacks the maneuverability and electronics, communications, and sensing capabilities of its US counterparts. “In head-to-head combat, the J-20 would lose in seconds,” Aboulafia says.

Yet, it may not matter if the J-20 plays the Fiero to America’s Ferrari. It’s not supposed to take on the F-22. The jet’s real threat is its ability to use what little stealth it does have to penetrate a conflict zone and attack aircraft supporting front-line combatants, like refueling tankers and AWACS surveillance airplanes, and other big targets.

And the jet will ensure dominance in the region once it enters service, around 2018. “China will then have a solid technological edge in air-to-air combat over all its Asian neighbors, including Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, and others,” says military analyst Peter Singer. That will of course extend to its allies who purchase the jets, Singer says, including countries in Africa, southeast Asia, the Middle East, and South America.

Plus, China will likely build a ton of the J-20 and J-31 (itself a knockoff of the F-35), and could exceed US production of the F-22 and F-35 within a few years. “The airplanes don’t have to be as good if they’re wielded in greater numbers, or in certain scenarios that can create major complications for the U.S. and its allies,” Singer says. In a way, China gets a second-mover advantage. “They don’t have to innovate; they simply have to catch up.”

At this point, analysts don’t know as much as they’d like about the J-20, but its airshow debut certainly whetted appetites for more intel to see just how much more catching up the Chinese still have to do.

Source: Wired “China’s New Fighter Jet Can’t Touch the US Planes It Rips Off”

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


9 Comments on “China’s New Fighter Jet Can’t Touch the US Planes It Rips Off”

  1. Josh Pike says:

    Everyone is correct that the authors do not know everything that could be known regarding the j20 vs western aircraft. And everyone is incorrect in assuming that they truth is only warfare will declare a winner. Not an author of an article, nor the clowns that disagree with authors.


  2. Joseph says:

    Another tirade from yet another silly analyst? He is certainly has no idea to what he’s talking about. First of all, Ferrari is not American. It’s Italian. Perhaps he drives a generic American car named Fiero. As always, this writer just copied and paste analysis from yet other ‘analysts’. He do not even know that F-35 is a total failure that his fellow ‘analysts’ would not bother to talk about it anymore. Unless the American has stealth-detecting radar on Zhuhai Airshow, there’s no way they could know that the J-20 could be detected or not. A pair of J-20s just flew in an airshow. They weren’t radar tested, they did not fire ammunition, they just flew, triggering car alarms with their sonic boom. If anything the J-20 proved in the airshow, was that the engines were so powerful for so large aircrafts, more powerful than any known engines, Russian or American-made alike. Yet it created so much fear and anxiety among American ‘analysts’. I feel sorry for this Su Bin, whoever he is. When the American needs an excuse, they will lynch a Chinese in America to convict. Just that. And this is what they call proudly the land of ‘freedom and justice’. They should call they America the land of lynchings. After all, that’s what the American been doing. People got lynched by ‘authorities’ all the time only to fill their prison quota. So it’s only the land of the free, for lynchings.


  3. Fre Okin says:

    Silly American analysts always assume J20 vs F22 in a one to one environment. J20 will operate as part of the Chinese air/navy attack package, even including Chinese ground missiles heading towards F22 bases in Guam and Okinawa.

    The reality is F22’s and F35’s are more likely to crash into the sea in an all out war after running out of fuel and no bases to return to.

    F22 could be taken out by J20 especially if China field Su 35 or maybe J10 Ahead of J20. Fielding J10 could be risky. Su 35 better, more agility to evade missiles. The idea is to lure F22 to fire first and get her location detected by IRST on J20 which will then fire on F22. With this combination, F22 will not be able to survive The Moment she fire off a missile. Su 35 itself could possible escape as it is a very agile plane and fire back on F22 as well. So F22 will probably be dead if this is how the Chinese field their fighter jet mix. Also once F22’s taken out in this manner, F35’s will become much more vulnerable to be taken out. The whole US stealth attack strategy shot down!


  4. Godfree Roberts says:

    “The Air Force touts the F-22’s supposed stealth capabilities as a point of superiority compared with the aging but durable F-15. But the F-22 hasn’t proved to be all that invisible, after all. From one discreet angle, the F-22 slips past radar screens. But from other apertures and latitudes, the plane, in the words of a Senate staffer, “lights up like the Budweiser blimp”.

    Because it’s a fighter intended for aerial combat with other fighter planes, the F-22 will be restricted largely to daytime flights. But the plane is so large-partially because the designers put the missiles inside the fighter in order to lower its profile to enemy radar systems-that it will be easily detectable to the naked eye. It’s five times the size of the F-16.

    “The only way to make the F-22 stealthy is to tear the eyes out of enemy pilots’ heads,” says retired Air Force Col. Everest Riccioni. Riccioni is one of the so-called “fighter mafia”, along with the late Col. John Boyd and CounterPuncher Pierre Sprey (now the director of Mapleshade Records), who helped to design the F-16, probably the best fighter plane ever produced. The colonel is now one of the F-22’s most savage critics.
    One intractable problem involves the F-22’s complex and unwieldy avionics system, being developed by Boeing.

    “The avionics for the F-22 was obsolete before the plane even went into production”, a Pentagon analyst tells CounterPunch. That’s because the computer systems that act as the plane’s brain are powered by five-volt silicon chips. These went out of date in 1992 when Intel introduced the 3.3 volt Pentium chip. Now most computers run on the even faster Pentium III, a 1-volt microchip. “Imagine if this plane ever joins the fleet and is running on computer systems that are already 10 years out of date and will be 30 years out of date in the future,” a senate staffer said. “It will be like trying to run a spreadsheet with an abacus.”

    Just to keep the planes maintained the Pentagon will have pay Boeing and Lockheed to keep open old plants to make the archaic parts for the F-22. The Pentagon has already set aside a billion dollars to address the problem of obsolete parts, a problem that will only get more bothersome over the lifetime of the plane. “It’ll be like the Pentagon’s version of the blacksmith shop at colonial Williamsburg,” the senate staffer tells us.”



  5. johnleecan says:

    The Americans are really in shock and awful lot of debt.


  6. joe says:

    It is hard to accept that the J20 is any good. Really painful. Cost one third and carry double the weapons. Longer reach and faster. Cannot be good. Ouch. The Chinese will have time to fix each and every glitch in time.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Steve says:

    The J-20 has bested the best of US stealth jet technologies. The J-20 was never a knock off of the technically defective F35 with cost overruns nor the can’t breathe cockpit and end of production F22 due to deficiencies like consistent maintenance after a short flight time.

    China’s J-20 has being consistent with No technical issues, superior stealth coating, immaculate design with superior manouverability. Will grab air supremacy over the ECS and SCS. Like most things American, the F35 will incur heavy maintenance, too expensive to fly, defects and may not even last as long as the F22.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Simon says:

    A jealous rant from an author who find it hard to digest the fact the Chinese has caught up with the best of the West.

    Liked by 1 person