Not Trade War but Real War between US and China


Rex Tillerson, former chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil, is seated prior to testifying before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be U.S. secretary of state, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. January 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Rex Tillerson, former chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil, is seated prior to testifying before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be U.S. secretary of state, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. January 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

When the US wanted China to respect Hague arbitration ruling to give up China’s rights and interests in the South China Sea, Chinese troops conducted its largest drill there and Chinese navy chief pointed his finger at his US counterpart in his talks with him. Soon afterwards Chinese air force began to conduct combat patrol in the South China Sea especially on the disputed Scarborough Shale.

Now, Reuters says in its report “Trump nominee says China should be denied access to South China sea islands”, “U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state set a course for a potentially serious confrontation with Beijing on Wednesday, saying China should be denied access to islands it has built in the contested South China Sea.”

What does that mean?

It means the nominee Rex Tillerson wants a real war instead of trade war with China.

The US is preparing for that as it has been sending a squadron of F-35, its most advanced fighter jets, to Japan for the war.

China is not less prepared as it has been stepping up the development, production and deployment its most advanced fighter jet J-20s so that if the US hurts China’s core interests of its rights and interests in the South China Sea, China has to fight. The Chinese ruling party the CCP will become extremely unpopular if it is afraid to fight.

We hope it will be a limited war between the two powers as the US cannot send its army to invade China given China’s huge modern army and US experience of defeat in Korean War. China, on the other hand, is utterly unable to send its army to the US.

China is now able to win the naval war as China’s J-20 is superior to F-35 in a war of defense and China can sink US aircraft carriers with saturate attack of its large number of anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles.

What will follow then? Attack China with nuclear weapons in retaliation? That will be the end of human race.

Do Trump and his nominee Rex Tillerson want that?

Let’s hope that Rex Tillerson’s hardline statement is but rhetoric.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report, full text of which is reblogged below:

Trump nominee says China should be denied access to South China sea islands

By David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick | WASHINGTON January 11, 2017

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state set a course for a potentially serious confrontation with Beijing on Wednesday, saying China should be denied access to islands it has built in the contested South China Sea.

In comments expected to enrage Beijing, Rex Tillerson told his confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee that China’s building of islands and putting military assets on those islands was “akin to Russia’s taking Crimea” from Ukraine.

Asked whether he supported a more aggressive posture toward China, he said: “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.”

The former Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) chairman and chief executive did not elaborate on what might be done to deny China access to the islands it has built up from South China Sea reefs, equipped with military-length airstrips and fortified with weapons.

Tillerson also said Washington needed to reaffirm its commitment to Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province, but stopped short of Trump’s questioning of Washington’s long-standing policy on the issue.

“I don’t know of any plans to alter the ‘one China’ position,” he said.

Tillerson said he considered China’s South China Sea activity “extremely worrisome” and that it would be a threat to the “entire global economy” if Beijing were able to dictate access to the waterway, which is of strategic military importance and a major trade route.

He blamed the current situation on what he termed an inadequate U.S. response. “The failure of a response has allowed them just to keep pushing the envelop on this,” Tillerson said.

“The way we’ve got to deal with this is we’ve got to show back up in the region with our traditional allies in Southeast Asia,” he said.

Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration conducted periodic air and naval patrols to assert the right of free navigation in the South China Sea. These have angered Beijing, but seeking to blockade China’s man-made islands would be a major step further and a step that Washington has never raised as an option.

Tillerson’s words also went beyond Trump’s own tough rhetoric on China.

Obama has sought to forge a united front in Southeast Asia against China’s pursuit of its territorial claims, but some allies and partners who are rival claimants have been reluctant to challenge Beijing.

Tillerson called China’s South China Sea island-building and declaration of an air defense zone in waters of the East China Sea it contests with Japan “illegal actions.”

“They’re taking territory or control, or declaring control of territories that are not rightfully China’s,” he said.

Tillerson also said the United States could not continue to accept “empty promises” China had made about putting pressure on North Korea over that country’s nuclear and missile programs.

He said his approach to dealing with North Korea – which recently declared it is close to carrying out its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile – would be “a long-term plan” based on sanctions and their proper implementation.

Asked if Washington should consider imposing “secondary sanctions” on Chinese entities found to be violating existing sanctions on North Korea, Tillerson said: “If China is not going to comply with those U.N. sanctions, then it’s appropriate … for the United States to consider actions to compel them to comply.”

He accused China of failing to live up to global agreements on trade and intellectual property, echoing past remarks by Trump, who has threatened to impose high, retaliatory tariffs on China. But Tillerson also stressed the “deeply intertwined” nature of the world’s two biggest economies.

“We should not let disagreements over other issues exclude areas for productive partnership,” he said.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)


First F-35B Squadron Moves to Japan


By: Valerie Insinna, January 10, 2017 (Photo Credit: US Marine Corps)

WASHINGTON — A Marine Corps F-35B squadron has transferred from the United States to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan, marking the first permanent international deployment of the joint strike fighter, the service announced Tuesday.

Marine Corps spokesman Capt Kurt Stahl told Defense News that 10 F-35Bs from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) departed Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona on Monday, with the first jets slated to arrive in Japan on Wednesday. All 10 F-35s will arrive at Iwakuni by Thursday. Eventually, an additional six jets will be relocated from Yuma to Iwakuni, bringing the squadron up to a full 16 aircraft.

VMFA-121 is a part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

“The transition of VMFA-121 from MCAS Yuma to MCAS Iwakuni marks a significant milestone in the F-35B program as the Marine Corps continues to lead the way in the advancement of stealth fighter attack aircraft,” the service said in a statement.

The Marine Corps’ short takeoff vertical landing version of the F-35 is the first variant of the aircraft to be permanently stationed outside of the United States. VMFA-121 became the US military’s first operational F-35 squadron in July 2015. Since then, the squadron “has continued to fly sorties and employ ordnance as part of their normal training cycle,” the Marine Corps said.

One such demonstration was Exercise Steel Knight in December 2015, a live-fire exercise that combined ground and air operations. The F-35B also took part in a proof-of-concept demo aboard amphibious assault ship America last October, where pilots tested the jet’s ability to operate in harsh at-sea conditions with a range of weapons.

The Air Force will become the next US service to internationally deploy the joint strike fighter, but is opting to locate its first squadron in Europe rather than in the Asia-Pacific. The F-35A will be permanently based at Royal Air Force Base Lakenheath in England as early as 2020.

Source: Defense News “First F-35B Squadron Moves to Japan”

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


The Conundrum of China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter Jet


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

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

Two People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) J-20 stealth fighter jets fly over spectators during an aerial performance at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, China, on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016. The biannual air show runs from November 1 to 6. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Two People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) J-20 stealth fighter jets fly over spectators during an aerial performance at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, China, on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016. The biannual air show runs from November 1 to 6. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

That is in fact not a conundrum as China has given crystal clear massages in the short flight show of J-20 stealth fighter jet, but it seems a real conundrum because few military experts, commentators and reporters seem to take and understand the messages.

Some of them seem to have received no messages at all. For example, Tobin Harshaw wrote an article for Bloomberg titled “China’s New Jets Are Impressive. But Are They for Real?” to show his failure to understand the message. Harshaw concludes his article with the following statement of frustration: “The J-20 flyby showed only how little we know about China’s drive to become a cutting-edge military.”

He certainly fails to receive one of the two clear messages: J-20 has no cutting edge compared with US F-22 outside the region it defends. The flight show tells those who have military knowledge that J-20 is satisfactorily stealth only in its front. It is not satisfactorily invisible to radar or infrared detector from the sides and rear.

F-22 however is stealth from any angle. It is designed to go deep into enemy territories to attack enemy targets including ground ones.

In designing F-22, US military wants it to be perfect, but China does not want its J-20 to be perfect. It only wants J-20 to achieve one vital strategic goal. That is why Chinese air force chief commander is very much satisfied with J-20 in spite of its various shortcomings.

US experts, commentators and reporters are used to assume that China is developing its military in order to contend with the US for world hegemony or in better wording for world leadership. The flight show proves precisely the contrary. China is satisfied with its new stealth fighter that is in quite a few respects inferior to US ones for world hegemony. The flight show proves that China has no intention to contend with the US for world leadership.

Chinese leaders are wise to refrain from the ambition to pursue world leadership. If they have such ambition, I will denounce them as stupid.

China’s economy is much smaller than the US. China still lags behind the US in many areas of science and technology. China simply lacks the ability to contend with the US. Moreover, what benefit may world leadership bring China? To be heavily in debts like the US and unpopular even in countries such as the Philippines the US protects?

Therefore, J-20 is utterly not designed as a penetrating strike jet. It only serves the strategic goal of grabbing air supremacy from F-22 in defending Chinese homeland. It is a weapon of defense while F-22 is a weapon of attack.

Kyle Mizokami seems to know better in its article “China Has Big Plans For Its Deadly New Stealth Fighter: But is the J-20 a threat to American air superiority?” published on Foreign Policy on November 4. He knows that as I point out, J-20 cannot be a penetrating strike jet due to its less-effective stealth from the sides and rear. However as he has the wrong idea that China wants to project its power outside its border or resolve border disputes by force, he fails to take the message that China has no intention to use J-20 outside the area J-20 protects.

Mr. Mizokami mentions China’s disputes with Japan in the East China Sea. However, he fails to see that the disputed Diaoyu (known as Senkaku in Japan) Islands are but worthless rocks. What China contends for are the rich fish and energy resources around the islands. Chinese fishermen are fishing there and China has been conducting oil and gas exploration there smoothly. Why shall China fight a war with expensive J-20s for some rocks?

Similar is the case with China’s disputes in the South China Sea. Different from the rocks in the East China Sea, the rocks there can be used to build large artificial islands for fishing, fish farming, tourism and oil and gas exploitation. China has incurred huge costs to build seven large artificial islands enough for such purposes and for defense of the area against US intervention.

In addition, China is not so greedy as to exploit those resources alone. It wants cooperation with other claimants in doing so. Now all other claimants including Vietnam are willing to cooperate, why shall China use its expensive J-20 to fight a war?

We see from the above that J-20 flight show clearly revealed that J-20 cannot be used as a penetrating strike jet for projecting China’s power abroad, but foreign military experts, commentators and reporters do not or simply will not accept the message as the message contradicts their assumption of China’s intention to project power abroad.

The second message is also very clear: With J-20, China has air superiority in the area near it to prevent US attack of Chinese homeland.

The flight show makes very clear J-20’s super maneuverability by showing its vertical climbup and sharp U-turn and looping. As J-20 is a later development, it has better radar, electronics, sensors, etc. than F-22; therefore, it is able to contend for air supremacy with F-22.

As for F-35, it is smaller; therefore, its radar and weapons are inferior to J-20’s. As F-35 is not designed for dogfight due to the design presumption it is to deal with non-stealth fighter, test has proved that it cannot win dogfight even against F-15. J-20 has much better dogfight capability as its designer knows well there will be dogfight between stealth fighters when their missiles fail to hit.

Due to the high speed and radar invisibility of stealth fighters, when a stealth fighter finds an enemy stealth fighter, it does not have much time for missile attack before their distance has been reduced to dogfight distance. With better heavier radar, J-20 can detect F-35 earlier and shoot down it with long-range air-to-air missile. If the long-range missile misses, it can fire a short-range one. If that missile also misses, it will be able to shoot down the F-35 in dogfight. F-35 is simply no rival to J-20.

The above analysis justifies Chinese air force commander’s satisfaction with J-20 as J-20 will be able to achieve strategic goal of air superiority to defend Chinese homeland.

China has the advantage of having specific strategic goal in developing J-20 so that it is able to ignore some unnecessary functions such as sidewise and rear stealth, group data link, etc. to reduce the cost and duration of research and development. That makes J-20 much cheaper and easier to make. We can expect that China will make a larger number of J-20s than US F-22s and F-35s to dominate the airspace near China.

That is the most important message to the US: With J-20, China is sure to win if the US attacks it.

Comparison between J-20 and F-22 disregarding their entirely different strategic goals does not make sense!

Article by Chan Kai Yee


China says aircraft carrier now ready for combat


FILE - In this May 2012 file photo provided by China’s Xinhua News Agency, Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning cruises for a test in the sea. The Liaoning’s political commissar Senior Captain Li Dongyou said China’s first aircraft carrier is now ready to engage in combat, marking a milestone for a navy that has invested heavily in its ability to project power far from China’s shores. (Xinhua, Li Tang, File/Associated Press)

FILE – In this May 2012 file photo provided by China’s Xinhua News Agency, Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning cruises for a test in the sea. The Liaoning’s political commissar Senior Captain Li Dongyou said China’s first aircraft carrier is now ready to engage in combat, marking a milestone for a navy that has invested heavily in its ability to project power far from China’s shores. (Xinhua, Li Tang, File/Associated Press)

In its Situation Report, Foreign Policy says that it was surprised by China’s announcement yesterday that its aircraft carrier is ready for combat. So was Washington Post in its report yesterday.

In fact, China has not directly made such an announcement. Foreign Policy says China has made such an announcement based on the report on Global Times’ interview with the carrier’s political commissar Li Dongyou, who said in the interview that the ship is “constantly prepared to fight against enemies.”

The US must be surprised because China previously described the Liaoning carrier as a platform for testing and training. US military experts predicted lots of China’s problems in producing carrier-based fighter jets, training pilots for the jets, etc. Even the arrest cable for landing of the fighter jets may be a serious headache.

That is why both Foreign Policy and Washington Post regard Li’s words as surprise announcement in their reports.

Surprise is natural as the US always underestimates China’s ability. However both media are wrong in predicting that the carrier will be used “to reinforce” (Washington Post’s wording) or in “underscoreing” (Foreign Policy’s wording) China’s claims in the South China Sea challenged by U.S. Navy and others.

The Liaoning deploys only 24 J-15s that will not be fully armed due to sky-jump takeoff. The three airports on China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea may accommodate at least 12 dozens of J-20 heavy stealth fighter jets there with much greater fire power. Moreover, China will soon deploy its J-10C stealth fighter jets with entirely new stealth technology completely different from US one.

J-10C instead of J-15 will be able to win dogfight against US F-22 due to its super maneuverability.

Dogfight capability is not necessary for a stealth fighter jet in dealing with a non-stealth one, but is indispensable for a stealth fighter jet in fighting another stealth fighter jet. As F-35 is not designed for fighting a stealth fighter and is a lighter warplane unable to carry better radar, it is utterly no rival to China’s J-20 and J-10C. Only F-22 may be able to contend with J-20 and J-10C, but without ground support near China, it has great disadvantage.

Since China has built three large unsinkable fixed aircraft carriers on its artificial islands in the South China Sea, it needs no aircraft carriers there, especially the Liaoning that is much inferior to US ones.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Foreign Policy and Washington Post’s reports, full text of which can be viewed respectively at https://mail.google.com/mail/#inbox/1586822dc8796243 and https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/china-says-aircraft-carrier-now-ready-for-combat/2016/11/15/748addc8-aaf4-11e6-8f19-21a1c65d2043_story.html


PLA: J-20 Already World Leader, Rival to Any Other Stealth Fighter


J-20. Mil.huanqiu.com photo.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet. Mil.huanqiu.com photo.

PLA website says in its report this morning that J-20 has integrated the designs of various fighter jets including the shape of F-22’s nose, F-35’s electro-optical Distributed Aperture System, Russian T-50’s all-moving vertical stabilizer, etc. It is installed with active phased array radar and electronic warfare and electro-optical systems that very few countries in the world are able to make.

It is of excellent stealthy design and equipped with advanced navigation electronics and weapon systems strong enough to contend with any stealth fighter jets in the area around China.

It can be a stealth reconnaissance aircraft. Its powerful information system enables it to be the command fighter jet of a fleet of non-stealth fighter jets like an AEW&C aircraft. It can also lead a fleet of drones to fight in the style of a swarm of bees.

As J-20 is the first stealth fighter to be deployed in Chinese air force. Chinese military will study new tactics and combat methods to integrate it with other advanced air battle equipment and technology and explore through training the way to give play to the optimal combat capabilities of all the equipment and technology combined. Chinese military will gradually develop a theory of combat centered on J-20 that will make J-20 the scariest weapon to enemy from abroad.

Source: mil.huanqiu.com “PLA media: J-20 can contend with any fourth-generation fighter jet in the world, already world leader” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)


Warplanes: J-20 Goes Public


November 10, 2016: For the first time China showed off its most advanced stealth warplane, the J-20, at a Chinese air show during the first week of November. China expects the J-20 to enter service in 2018 and has apparently changed its mind about exporting the J-20. Since 2014 China has offered its 18 ton J-31 stealth fighter to export customers as the FC-31 but insisted that it would not export its more advanced J-20. What apparently changed this policy was Chinese belief that they had solved the engine problems and could build their own engines and not be dependent on Russian engines.

The J-20 made its first flight in 2011, and many more since then. There in addition to the two original J-20 prototypes six more were built between 2012 and 2015, each incorporating changes. By the end of 2015 the final design was ready for production. This J-20 is a 36 ton aircraft that looks like the American F-22 when viewed head on. Yet the J-20’s overall shape, weight, and engine power is closer to the American F-15C. The J-20 is 20 meters (67 feet) long, with a wing span of 13 meters (44 feet). The J-20 has about the same wing area as the F-15C, which is about 25 percent less than the F-22 (which is a few percent larger than the F-15 in terms of length and wingspan). Worse, for the J-20, is the fact that its engine power is about the same as the F-15C, while the F-22 has 65 percent more power. With the afterburner turned on, the J-20 has more power than the F-15C and nearly as much as the F-22. But because the afterburner consumes so much fuel you can’t use more than a few minutes at a time. The latest J-20 model appears to be able to supercruise (go faster than the speed of sound without using the afterburner), joining the F-22, Eurofighter, and the Gripen as aircraft that can supercruise.

The J-20 has some stealthiness (invisibility to radar) when it’s coming at you head on. But from any other aspect, the J-20 will light up the radar screen. For this reason the J-20 appeared to be a developmental aircraft, not the prototype of a new model headed for mass production. China now indicates that the J-20 is the basis for a new fighter and will go through as many design and shape changes are needed to become combat ready. As such, J-20 is only the fifth stealth fighter to fly, the others being the U.S. F-22 and F-35, plus the Russian T-50. The older U.S. F-117 was actually a light bomber and the B-2 was obviously a heavy bomber. Based on recent Chinese warplane development projects (J-11 in particular), the J-20 has a long development road ahead of it but the current version is seen fit for service, both with the Chinese air force and navy as well as export customers. .

While the shape of the J-20 confers a degree of stealthiness, even more electronic invisibility comes from special materials covering the aircraft. It’s not known how far along the Chinese are in creating, or stealing, these materials or the needed engines. China would most likely use the J-20 singly, or in small groups, to seek out and attack American carriers. To make this possible F-22 class engines are needed and that is still in development. Over the last few years China has admitted it has been developing the WS-15 engine (since the 1990s), a more powerful beast well suited for the J-20. It was never clear as to when the WS-15 would be available for use or whether it would have the same vectoring (ability to move the hot jet exhaust in different directions in order to make the fighter more maneuverable) the F-22 uses.

For the J-20 to be a superior fighter, it would need electronics (including radars and defense systems) on a par with the F-35 and F-22. So far, the Chinese have not caught up with stuff used by current American fighters. But the gap is being closed, faster than it was during the Cold War when the Russians were creating, or stealing, their way to military tech equivalence with the West. The Russians never made it but the Chinese believe they can succeed.

Work on the J-20 began in the late 1990s, and the Chinese knew that it could be 25 years or more before they had a competitive stealth fighter-bomber. From the beginning the twin engine J-20 appears to be about the same weight class as the 30 ton F-15C. The F-35A is a 31 ton, single engine fighter, while the twin-engine F-22 is slightly larger at 38 tons. The Russian T-50 weighed in at 37 tons.

The Americans have one major advantage. They are the only nation that has successfully developed and used stealth aircraft in combat. The F-117 (a light bomber) entered service in 1983 followed by the B-2 in 1997, the F-22 in 2005 and the F-35 in 2015. The F-117 saw combat during the 1980s and the other stealthy aircraft did so within five years of entering service.

The first flight of the F-22 took place in 1997 and it entered service in 2005. During eight years of flight tests the eight prototype F-22s made 3,500 flights. The Russian T-50 appears closer to the F-35, than the F-22 and is way behind schedule. In 2007 Russia said the T-50 would have its first flight in 2009 and be in service by 2017. That schedule keeps slipping. The six T-50 prototypes have made only 700 test flights in the last six years. The J-20 moved through development faster because the Chinese set the bar lower and seems willing to cut corners to get something useful and affordable into production. It appears that the J-20 will cost about $120 million each to produce. Even with development costs added the aircraft would cost between $150 million and $200 million. China was able to steal a lot of American and Russian aircraft technology and that kept development time, and costs, down.

Source: Strategy Page “Warplanes: J-20 Goes Public”

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


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.