J-20 now ‘combat-ready’ in PLA’s Eastern Theater Command before US could formally approve F-16 sale
ByK.G. Chan July 29, 2019
Chinese party mouthpieces including the Global Times and PLA Daily have again talked up the might of the J-20, the People’s Liberation Army’s fifth-generation stealth fighter.
They warned that the fighter jet designed for supremacy in the air could fly close to Taiwan to fend off “adversaries from near and far” and reclaim and guard the “Chinese island.”
The warning came after the PLA confirmed the combat-ready deployment of the J-20 in the air wing of the force’s Eastern Theatre Command, a military region headquartered in Nanjing tasked with recapturing Taiwan, which Chinese media often describe as a renegade province that must be put back under Beijing’s rule.
The Eastern Theatre Command encompasses Taiwan and the East China Sea. The distance between Nanjing and Taipei is a little more than 800 kilometers and the J-20 could also be based and serviced on a number of strategically-located airbases in Shanghai, Ningbo and along the coastline of southeastern Fujian province.
A white paper on China’s defense policy published last week also contained a salvo of similar threats: secessionists in Taiwan are the PLA’s bete noire, more so than those troublemakers in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, and the PLA has been ready for a swift takeover of the self-ruled island in the eventuality of a war.
A day after the paper was released, however, a US warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait, amid continuing overflights above strategic areas such as the South China Sea.
Stationing the J-20 close to the frontier facing Taiwan would give more substance to Beijing’s protest against Washington’s upcoming sale of 66 F-16V fighters to beef up Taiwan’s air-defense.
The fourth-generation F-16V is seen as “outmoded” and would hardly stand a chance in a dogfight against the more advanced, highly maneuverable J-20, according to the Chinese media.
Previous reports have hinted that one or two J-20s could have already buzzed vessels in the Taiwan Strait close to a tacit line delineating Chinese and Taiwanese airspace.
An F-16 fighter in service with the Taiwanese Army takes off from a highway in Changhua country during an anti-PLA invasion drill. Photo: Reuters
Meanwhile, in Taiwan, some observers have lashed out at President Tsai Ing-wen’s “silly” decision to shell out billions of dollars on the F-16s, a deal that not only irked Beijing but also drew the closer deployment of the J-20 and other PLA assets.
But sources close to the island’s defense ministry noted that Taiwan had first opted for the F-35, arguably the most formidable fifth-generation aircraft from Lockheed Martin, a proposal snubbed by the Pentagon.
The ministry insisted that Taiwan would never sit idle and let itself be bludgeoned into “reunification” with China and that its army had the capabilities to defend itself should hostilities break out in the Taiwan Strait.
Source: Asia Times “China’s J-20 deployed as Taiwan waits for F-16s”
Note: This is Asia Times’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
Asia Times’ article “Taiwan, the BRI and the geopolitical chessboard” describes the success of China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI) in boosting the rise of the East, which the West is unable to hinder.
The article begins with the tension caused by Beijing’s two J-11s crossing the existent median of Taiwan Strait. The US is going to sell Taiwan more than 60 outdated F-16s to support Taiwan. However, that is insignificant in Asia’s geopolitical chessboard.
The article describes the BRI (Belt and Road initiative) connection between Russia and China. The economies of the two major Asian powers supplement each other. Russia is to divert to China its export of natural resources to the West and get the technologies it needs for development of import-substitution industries from China.
The Article says, “China is de facto an equal or even ahead of the US in plenty of technology areas – as documented, for instance, by Kai-Fu Lee on AI Super-Powers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order.” Russia will certainly be able to get the technologies it wants from China.
BRI Cooperation between China and Russia-led Eurasia covers large areas in Asia. In addition, there is an emerging Southwest Asia BRI node that links Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon in the Middle East.
“The West, or what remains of its unity, does not represent a vision of the future any more. China is striving for the BRI to fulfill this role. That’s something a few extra F-16s patrolling the cross-strait median won’t be able to change,“ the article concludes.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Asia Times’ article, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.asiatimes.com/2019/04/article/taiwan-the-bri-and-the-geopolitical-chessboard/.
In recent air battle between India and Pakistan a Russian Mig-21 Bison in Indian air force shot down a US F-16 in Pakistani air force.
The shocking news is regarded as a fake but if it was a fake why the US has to send some of its experts to make an investigation.
Mig-21 is a very old fighter jet but the Mig-21 Bison in Indian air force is a new version upgraded in 2002. By comparison the F-16, also a very old type of fighter jet, though frequently upgraded, its version in Pakistani air force is older than Mig-21 Bison.
A retired Russian air force general claimed that Indian story was reliable as Mig-21 Bison is an upgraded version of Mig-21 Bis with great improvement especially the advanced Tarang Radar warning Receiver (RWR) and the new Helmet Mounted Sighting System, which enables the pilot to launch an Air to Air Missile at off bore angles, simply by turning his head towards the target.
The new helmet has greatly enhanced Mig-21’s dogfight capabilities. It is believed that Indian pilot shot down an F-16 with the help of that helmet.
J-20’s helmet is much more advanced than Mig-21 Bison’s. It shows the pilot all the data and information he needs to see without looking down at the panel. Its pilot can fire and hit the target he looks at without locking on the target. F-35, however, is so backward that its pilot has to look down at its panel and try hard to lock on his target while he is busy controlling his airplane.
There has been no reliable information whether J-20 has a cannon or not as inability to find one in its photographs cannot prove that. However, I believe with the dogfight capability of J-20’s helmet and PL-10 dogfight missile, there is no need for a cannon.
In my opinion, National Interest article is stupid in regarding a canon as indispensable based on air combat experience in 1960s and 1970s.
Britain sent a battleship and cruiser to defeat Japanese navy based on its experience in World War I resulting in both warships being sunk by Japanese aircraft carrier.
Britain failed to pay attention on development of mechanical army or air force before World War II based on its World War I experience while Germany developed powerful advanced mechanized army and air force to conquer France and brought terror to British people with frequent air raids.
Technology is developing much faster now than the period before World War II. China and Russia are using the most advanced technology to create new weapons and ways of combat while the US still sticks to its 1970s’ experience. No wonder F-35 becomes J-20’s prey now.
Article by Chan Kai Yee.
It’s the most advanced weapon system (Comment: one of the most but not the most advanced weapon) ever made, and one F-35 pilot tells us what it’s like in the cockpit.
By Alex Hollings Mar 5, 2019
Lots of people love the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, one of the most advanced (Comment: That is more realistic), stealthiest warplanes on the planet. And lots of people loathe it, pointing to the ballooning costs and arguing America’s newest fighter is more flash than function. But what’s it like to fly it?
Despite all the public acrimony about the plane, we haven’t heard much from the men and women who will strap into the cockpit. So, with F-35s now entering service in the U.S. and abroad, Popular Mechanics asked Air Force pilot and host of “The Professionals Playbook” podcast, Major Justin “Hasard” Lee, what it takes to fly the fighter.
The Right Stuff
“The first time I saw an F-35 was in 2015 at Nellis AFB [in Nevada],” Lee recalls. “They were new and sleek, albeit a bit husky. Their clamshell canopy along with the pilot’s Darth Vader helmet stood out. Looking into the cockpit I could see what looked like a massive iPad on the dashboard…the memory of [the F-35] taxing by is definitely seared in the back of my mind.”
Lee caught a glimpse of his future, but it would still be some time before he was able to get into the cockpit of the the fifth generation fighter (F-35s and F-22s are called 5th generation because of their advanced systems, while older fighters like the F-16 and F/A-18 belong to the 4th generation). “I flew F-16’s for seven years before I had the opportunity to cross over,” Lee continues. “F-35’s were number one on my list of around 20 different assignments.”
Lee accumulated nearly 400 hours of combat flight time with the F-16 Fighting Falcon before flying the F-35. Today, though, up-and-coming pilots have a much more direct route. Last year, the U.S. Air Force graduated its first class of what the fighter pilot community calls “5th-gen babies.” These fledging aviators were born into the world of the F-35 and its array of advanced systems. “They haven’t had to endure some of the frustrations, such as an old mechanically scanned radar, that come with fourth generation fighters,” Lee says.
Still, if you want to become an F-35 pilot, the odds aren’t in your favor. “I can remember my first day when the base commander gave us a pep talk and then asked us how many wanted to be fighter pilots,” says Lee. “All 30 of us raised our hands, to which he replied ‘good luck’ and walked out of the room.”
Lee went on to fly the T-6 high-performance prop plane for six months until seven pilots were picked for the “fighter track.” For another six months, these seven freshman pilots cut their teeth on T-38 supersonic jet trainers. After a year of flying, only four out of a class of 30 had the right stuff to become a fighter pilot.
Strapping the Jet on Our Backs
Despite the generational leap in technology from the F-16 to F-35, Lee says jumping cockpits wasn’t as dramatic as you’d expect.
After a year of flying, only four out of a class of 30 had the right stuff to become a fighter pilot.
“The F-35 buttons and software were derived in large part from the F-16,” he says. “There are more buttons, and each one has more functions, but in general, each one does something similar to what it did in the F-16.”
Familiar or not, the first flight inside $100 million worth of state secrets makes even a seasoned fighter pilot sweat. “There are no two-seat versions of the F-35. The first time you fly, you’re by yourself,” says Lee. “As soon as you take off, the only person that can bring the jet back and land is you.”
He continues: “Once you become proficient in flying a fighter we call it ‘strapping the jet on our backs’ because it feels like you and the jet are one entity. My first flight was far from it and each switch actuation took several seconds to consciously think about—which in the air, flying a mile every 6 seconds, feels like minutes on the ground.”
While many parts of a mission easily translate from an old warbird to the new one, the F-35 offers a never-before-seen level of streamlined situational awareness. The F-35’s low-radar observability may be the plane’s flashiest capability, but pilots love how the F-35 fuses data from multiple sources into a single field of view. It’s really what separates the aircraft from anything that’s flown before.
“In the F-16, each sensor was tied to a different screen…often the sensors would show contradictory information” says Lee. “The F-35 fuses everything into a green dot if it’s a good guy and a red dot if it’s a bad guy— it’s very pilot-friendly. All the information is shown on a panoramic cockpit display that is essentially two giant iPads.” (Comment: Convenient for pilot but what about the defeat of F-35 in dogfight against F-16? Is that helpful?)
Playing Well With Others
The F-35’s ability to integrate all that information into an easy-to-interpret display doesn’t just benefit one pilot. As Lee points out, that integrated feed improves the situational awareness of any other aircraft around an F-35.
“Advanced sensors, sensor fusion, and networking capabilities allow us to be the ‘quarterback’ in the air,” Lee says. “Because ‘4th-gen’ fighters will be around for several decades, a significant part of our job is maximizing their potential. We can let them know where the enemy is by voice or over the network.”
“Advanced sensors, sensor fusion, and networking capabilities allow us to be the ‘quarterback’ in the air.”
The F-35 also received iPhone-like software updates and patches that translate directly into added capabilities and improved performance in the physical world. Lee says that the aircraft’s software wouldn’t permit the F-35 to turn nearly as hard as its air frame allowed until just such a software update last year. In five to 10 years’ time, the F-35 might look the same, but its performance will be almost unrecognizable.
“Some may argue that certain ‘4th gen’ attributes are better today, but they aren’t looking 10 years into the future,” says Lee. “Those platforms are over 40 years old. They’ve been phenomenal workhorses but iterative improvements aren’t going to win a high-end conflict in the 2030s.” (This blogger’s comment: Why are F-35 designer and manufacturer not able to incorporate the good attributes of ‘4th gen’ fighter jets into F-35? Do they have to do so gradually in ‘ten years into the future’ to earn more money from US tax payers? US tax payers have already paid through their nose for F-35, but they have to pay more and more to improve and maintain it. US weapon developers seem to be black holes for US tax payers’ money.)
These new updates mean pilots must stay on top of these changes. Failing to study up on the latest update could mean “being left behind” says Lee, or even life-threatening. But its these steady flow of updates—along with its stealth and sensor fusion chops—that make the F-35 the new apex hunter of the skies.
“The reason the F-15 and F-16 have remained relevant for so long is because they were a forward-leaning departure from 3rd-gen fighters,” says Lee. “Think of what we were flying 40 years before them: biplanes.”
Source: Popular Mechanics “An F-35 Pilot Explains What It’s Like to Fly the Joint Strike Fighter”
Note: This is Popular Mechanics’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views. Some of my views have been expressed in my comment.
‘Technology spy’ sought advanced jet engines, Reaper drone for reverse engineering
China’s government covertly tried to obtain advanced U.S. fighter jet engines and a Reaper drone in a high-technology spying operation uncovered by federal authorities in Florida.
A Chinese-born woman, Wenxia Man, was sentenced to 50 months in prison on Friday following her conviction for conspiracy to export restricted American defense articles, namely engines for F-35, F-22, and F-16 jets, and the Reaper, a front-line unmanned aerial vehicle used by the military and intelligence agencies.
Court papers in the case stated that Man, a naturalized U.S. citizen residing in California who is also known as Wency Man, worked with a Chinese government procurement agent, Xinsheng Zhang, in trying to purchase the military items. The Chinese planned to reverse-engineer the U.S. military goods to avoid the costs and time required for indigenous development. Zhang operated from China and remains out of reach of prosecutors.
Michael Walleisa, assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence of 78 months for the weapons conspiracy conviction.
“There is hardly a more serious case than a case such as this that involves some of our most sophisticated fighter jet engines and unmanned weaponized aerial drones,” Walleisa said in a sentencing memorandum.
“The potential for harm to the safety of our fighter pilots, military personnel, and national security which would occur had the defendant been successful is immeasurable, particularly where, as here the clear intent of the co-conspirators was to enable the People’s Republic of China to reverse engineer the defense articles and manufacture fighter jets and UAV’s.”
The conspiracy revealed that China was seeking to “increase its military capabilities and might to the potential detriment of the United States,” Walleisa said.
The U.S. government imposed an arms embargo on China in 1990 following the Chinese military’s massacre of unarmed pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square a year earlier.
Between 2011 and 2013, Man and Zhang worked together to solicit three sets of General Electric and Pratt and Whitney turbofan engines for the F-35, F-22, and F-16 jets, as well as a General Atomics Reaper drone and technical details of the equipment. The Chinese were prepared to pay $50 million for the embargoed items.
Authorities launched an investigation of the case after Man contacted a defense industry source who alerted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations unit in Miami. The Pentagon’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service also investigated the case.
Man used a company called AFM Microelectronics, Inc. in trying to buy the military equipment. She disclosed to an undercover federal agent in 2012 that the jet engines were meant for the Chinese government and that she knew it was illegal to export them, according to court papers.
China is engaged in a major military buildup that includes two new advanced stealth jet fighters that U.S. intelligence agencies say benefitted from stolen American aircraft technology.
The attempt to buy embargoed jet fighter engines highlights what military analysts say is China’s major technology shortfall—its inability to manufacture high-quality jet engines. Turbofan engines require extremely precise machine work and parts because of the high speeds of their spinning engine fans.
Zhang was described by the government in court papers as a “technology spy” working for China’s military-industrial complex. The Chinese government buys arms and military technology from Russia and other states “so that China can obtain sophisticated technology without having to conduct its own research,” the indictment in the case states.
The name of the Chinese entity was not disclosed. China’s government defense industry group is SASTIND, an acronym for State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.
Zhang sought to buy the operating system and aircraft control system for the MQ-9 Reaper as well as the unmanned aerial vehicle itself and the technical design data for the aircraft. The drone sought was an armed version capable of firing Hellfire missiles.
Man, 45, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to export defense goods with a license.
At sentencing on Friday, U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom told the court that Man hoped to get a $1 million commission on the illegal export and that she wanted to help China compete with the United States militarily.
“I’m innocent,” Man told the judge, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper reported. “This is my country, too.” She plans to appeal the conviction that was reached after a jury trial in June.
Michael Pillsbury, a China specialist at the Hudson Institute, said the Man case highlights China’s large-scale technology theft program.
“The scope and the ambition of their technology intelligence collection is breathtaking,” said Pillsbury. “They’re not after petty secrets.”
The Man case is similar to an earlier Chinese technology acquisition operation headed by Chi Mak, another naturalized Chinese citizen. In 2007, Mak, an electrical engineer at the U.S. firm Power Paragon, was convicted of conspiracy to export sensitive electronics defense technology to China.
Mak was a long-term technology spy who operated for 20 years. U.S. officials believe Mak provided China with secrets to the Aegis battle management system, the heart of current Navy warships.
China has deployed a similar version of the Aegis ship, known as the Type 052D warship.
Source: Washington Free Beacon “China’s Covert Weapons Procurement Revealed in Florida Case”
Note: This is Washington Free Beacon’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.