China Claims The F-22 Is As Flawed As The Old F-4 Phantom

Michael Peck, Contributor

Aug 13, 2020,10:35am EDT

America’s vaunted F-22 Raptor stealth fighter has a major weakness, according to China’s top aircraft designer: It was designed to fight Russia in Europe, not China in the Pacific.

In fact, Yang Wei, chief designer of the J-20 Mighty Dragon – China’s first stealth fighter – says that if the F-22 were to fly against China, it would suffer the same problems that the F-4 Phantom suffered when flying over North Vietnam during the Vietnam War a half-century ago.

Writing in the Chinese aeronautics journal Acta Aeronautica et Astronautica Sinica, Yang suggested that the F-22 “could face the same challenges in the region as the F-4 fighter-bombers the Pentagon sent to the Vietnam war between 1965 and 1973,” according to the South China Morning Post.

The complex environment and political constraints in Vietnam caused the F-4 to almost fail to show its high-speed performance and over-the-horizon combat capabilities,” Yang wrote.

Other Chinese military analysts echoed those sentiments. “The J-20’s biggest advantage was that it was developed later, meaning its designers could learn from the F-22 – including how to fix shortcomings, and what type of new technologies could be used to optimize the aircraft,” defense expert Song Zhongping told the Post.

The F-22 was originally designed for combat with the former Soviet Union, or today’s Russia, in Europe, but now the Raptor’s main opponent is the [People’s Liberation Army] in the Asia-Pacific. China’s J-20 was inspired by the F-22’s deployment. The Chinese aircraft designers used the Raptor as a rival and the F-35 [stealth multi-role fighter] as a tactical opponent to help them to come up with a more practical and capable fighter jet.”

Chinese experts rightly note that the J-20, which first flew in 2011, has the advantage of coming later than the F-22, which first flew in 1997. It’s also true that some F-22 features seem more suitable for Europe than the Pacific. In particular, the F-22 only has a combat range of about 500 miles, which might be fine for the narrow confines of Eastern Europe, but less so for the vast expanses of the Pacific. The J-20’s 700-mile combat range gives the Mighty Dragon a longer reach over hotspots such as the South China Sea.

But comparing the F-22 Raptor to the F-4 Phantom is like comparing a Ferrari to a minivan. The F-4 was originally designed as a Navy interceptor in the late 1950s, to destroy Soviet bombers. The Phantom was a heavy beast that could move fast, but with agility that was described as proving that even a brick could fly if you strap two big engines on it.

In the arrogant belief that dogfighting was obsolete and aerial warfare would be waged by air-to-air guided missiles, the F-4 initially wasn’t even armed with a cannon. But the Phantom and its overconfident U.S. Air Force and Navy pilots soon received a rude awakening over North Vietnam, when they found themselves engaging in low-speed dogfights against nimble MiG-17, MiG-19 and MiG-21 fighters.

Long-range missile shots against targets on radar were precluded by U.S. rules of engagement, which mandated visual identification in skies where most aircraft were American. U.S. pilots were not well-trained in dogfighting until the early 1970s, when the Navy began its TOPGUN program. And those early air-to-air missiles – especially the medium-range, radar-guided AIM-7 Sparrow – proved unreliable in combat.

While there are conflicting estimates of kill ratios, U.S. fighters battling a Third World air force may have achieved a kill ratio of as little as 2-to-1 against the MiGs. Considering the restrictions that U.S. pilots labored under, even that was an achievement.

But the air war over the South China Sea would be nothing like the skies over Hanoi. Unlike the F-4, the F-22 is super-maneuverable, including swiveling engine nozzles for thrust-vectoring. The Raptor’s stealth and sensors are designed to allow the fighter to pick off enemy aircraft at long range, using AIM-120 missiles that can hit targets 100 miles away. Airborne early warning aircraft and data networking will enable the F-22, and its cousin, the F-35, to detect and destroy targets without coming into visual range. The notion of the F-22 engaging in close-range knife fights against Chinese fighters is almost insane.

On the other hand, the J-20 is no lithe Cold War MiG. In fact, the J-20 and the F-22 weigh about 21 tons. Rather than an agile dogfighter, Western observers have questioned whether the J-20 is really a heavy interceptor, especially given the limitations of its current Russian-made engines. While the latest J-20s will have thrust vectoring, in some ways the J-20 seems closer to the F-4 Phantom and the F-22.

Finally, comparing the F-22 to the F-4 is as much praise as insult. For all its design flaws and ungainly appearance, the Phantom has proved its versatility and toughness as a fighter, bomber and recon plane in numerous conflicts across the Middle East and Asia for nearly a half-century. The F-22 and the J-20 should be so lucky.

Source: Forbes “China Claims The F-22 Is As Flawed As The Old F-4 Phantom”

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

4 Comments on “China Claims The F-22 Is As Flawed As The Old F-4 Phantom”

  1. chankaiyee2 says:

    in reply to bcat1943 not anybody else

    Your comment is deleted as it is irrelevant.


  2. Simon says:

    That why China need to fire first when America intrude into Chinese air space and territorial waters. It would expose how crap America’s so call cutting edge military tech really are and would harm sales of their military junk to other countries.

    China must fire first and second and third, and so on, because America will be running away!!!!


  3. Steve says:

    If the f22 is so versstile, Why did the US upgraded the f15 to f15ex to partner the f35 as Mr. Spotter n Mrs Sniper. Why not use the f22. The Japanese and Koreans used the f15/16 extensively under Asian conditions, in fact Mitsubishi heavy metal industries and Boeing signed an agreement of US4.5 billion $$ to upgrade another f15j with latest avionics and a possible inclusion of hypersonic missiles. This proved that the f22 cannot be reconfigured and upgraded. By comparison, the f22 is obsolete. It’s obvious that Mr.Yang Wei is right in his analysis. The US and Japs are so desperate to upgrade to a f15ex & f15j, because the current US fighters f15/16 are no match for China’s J-20J-16J-10.


  4. Joseph says:

    The irony is, the above description is only true if the F-22 and the F-35 actually work as their designers intended them to be, which is they are not. The Chinese design their aircrafts to counter the American aircraft as if they work as advertised. In this conditions, it is already bad news for the American aircraft. But the conditions of the F-22, and especially the F-35 are nowhere near optimal, which make the Chinese aircraft to be far more superior as they perform as they are supposed to perform. Pecky here, who jumped from National Interest to Forbes, is actually venting frustration that eventhough he wants to promote American aircraft to be ‘typically superior’, the Chinese aircrafts are superior on their design too. He might try to ignore the operational record of the Chinese aircraft against American ones on his ‘analysis’, but in the end he would have to admit that the Chinese aircrafts are superior on paper too. He might try to play down the Chinese opinions, but actually it is the American pilots that should be convinced if they want to go out there against the Chinese aircrafts. So far, we never saw any American aircraft flying on the South China Sea facing the Chinese aircrafts near the artificial islands. Yes, the American sent aircraft carriers. Yes, the American American brought the ‘F-35s’ on board the USS Wasp and USS America. But they never flew in formations in their ‘exercise’ as show of force against the Chinese. In fact, they never even met the Chinese on their ‘exercise’. They came a long way to confront the Chinese, and they always sent in an old expendable destroyers to actually test the Chinese. Wasn’t it a waste after their long journey? It is fair to assume that the F-35 aboard the USS America and Wasp to be life-size models since they didn’t even fly, but the American did not even send out the F/A-18 to confront the Chinese. It would indicate that the American pilots might feel overwhelming anxiety to fly against the Chinese, knowing the capability differences of their aircrafts. In this case, Pecky is trying to take a cheap shot from the opinions of Chinese analysts about the credibility of the American aircrafts assuming, and only assuming, the American aircrafts work as propagandized.