Test pilot sees China’s J-20 to get 2D thrust vectoring nozzles


By Liu Xuanzun

Published: Apr 19, 2021 10:43 PM

China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet displays its new coating of stealth material and flies over the exhibition hall at Airshow China 2018 on Tuesday. Photo: Cui Meng/GT

The pilot who first flew the J-20 believes that China’s most advanced stealth fighter jet will be upgraded with 2D thrust vectoring nozzles for its engines, according to a recent news report.

This means the warplane will receive enhanced maneuverability and stealth capability and surpass its US counterpart, the F-22, a Chinese military expert said on Monday.

The J-20 is expected to be equipped with engines with 2D thrust vectoring nozzles, said Li Gang, the pilot of the J-20’s first flight, when asked about his expectations on the future development of the J-20’s thrust vector control capability in a recent interview with Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV aired on Monday.

J-20s in service with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force currently all use circular nozzles with no thrust vector control capability, analysts said.

Thrust vector control will provide extra maneuverability and 2D nozzles can enhance stealth capabilities of the J-20, Fu Qianshao, a Chinese military aviation expert, told the Global Times on Monday.

With the flight performance of the J-10B thrust vector control demonstrator at the Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai, South China’s Guangdong Province, China displayed its capability to develop and apply 3D thrust vectoring technology on fighter jets.

Explaining the differences between 2D and 3D thrust vectoring, Fu said that 2D nozzles are rectangular and 3D nozzles are circular, meaning that 2D nozzles have better radar and infrared stealth capabilities than the 3D nozzles.

The F-22 stealth fighter jet of the US Air Force uses 2D thrust vectoring, analysts noted.

3D nozzles are often believed to be capable of providing more thrust angles than 2D nozzles, as F-22’s 2D nozzles can only move vertically, but this is a common misunderstanding, Fu said, noting that 2D nozzles can also move horizontally to provide horizontal thrust when so designed, but this design could add development costs.

In the Phoenix TV report, Li also said that he expects the J-20’s thrust vectoring nozzles to move only vertically like the F-22, but Fu said that he hopes the J-20’s future nozzles will be able to move horizontally, which will make the PLA fighter jet surpass its US counterpart in this aspect.

It has been long expected that the J-20 will eventually receive thrust vectoring-capable engines.

When asked about when the J-20 can get thrust vectoring-capable engines at a press conference of Airshow China 2018, shortly after the J-10B thrust vector control demonstrator made its flight performance, Yang Wei, chief designer of the J-20, replied, “You asked about when, but how do you know it hasn’t?” This statement is widely interpreted by military observers that the J-20’s developers have been testing thrust vector control on the aircraft for a long time.

2021 marks the 10th year of the J-20’s maiden flight, and the stealth fighter jet is seeing many new developments, including domestically made engines, removal of Luneburg lens in exercises, and possible development of a twin-seat variation, according to media reports.

Source: Global Times “Test pilot sees China’s J-20 to get 2D thrust vectoring nozzles”

Note: This is Global Times’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean whether I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet flies without Luneburg lens, shows combat readiness


By Liu Xuanzun

Published: Apr 05, 2021 08:09 PM

A J-20 stealth fighter jet attached to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theater Command takes part in exercises. The aircraft is not equipped with a Luneburg lens, a radar reflector used to make a stealth aircraft visible to others in training or non-combat flights. Photo: Screenshot from China Central Television

A J-20 stealth fighter jet attached to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theater Command takes part in exercises. The aircraft is not equipped with a Luneburg lens, a radar reflector used to make a stealth aircraft visible to others in training or non-combat flights. Photo: Screenshot from China Central Television

The J-20, the most advanced, stealth-capable fighter jet of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force, has entered the next level of combat readiness, analysts said on Monday, after the aircraft was spotted flying without a Luneburg lens, a small device used to intentionally expose a stealth aircraft to others in situations like training or non-combat flights.

At the Qingming Festival on Sunday, the traditional tomb-sweeping day, pilots of J-20 jets paid respect to the heroic Chinese pilots who fought in the Korean War (1950-53), China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Sunday.

The former unit of Sun Shenglu, a heroic Chinese pilot in the war, is now equipped with J-20 fighter jets, Sun Teng, a J-20 fighter jet pilot, said on CCTV.

Sun Shenglu was part of the Wang Hai Air Group, which is now affiliated with the PLA Eastern Theater Command, according to openly available information. The PLA Air Force announced in 2019 that the Wang Hai Air Group was equipped with the J-20.

“Air Force pilots in the new age will inherit the spirit of ‘aerial bayonet fighting,’ train to prepare for combat, be ready at all times for combat, and resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and dignity,” Sun Teng said.

The CCTV footage also showed a J-20 making aerial maneuvers, and some frames showed that this J-20 was not equipped with a Luneburg lens. Further, the lines of the aircraft’s side missile bay were different from previous J-20 fighters, a separate report by CCTV said on Monday,

A Luneburg lens is a small device used to expand the radar cross-section of an aircraft, which means it can make a stealth aircraft visible to radar, a Chinese military expert who asked to remain anonymous told the Global Times on Monday.

In regular training, friendly radar facilities need to track stealth aircraft to monitor their activities and assess training results. In other non-combat scenarios like transit flights, making the presence of stealth aircraft known to others can avoid accidents, the expert said, noting that in some military operations, there could also be a need for such planes to show themselves to achieve deterrence while also hiding their true stealth specifications.

In most previous reports on the J-20, the stealth aircraft shown carried this radar reflector under its belly, military affairs observers said.

By removing it, the J-20 will go stealth as it was designed to, and this means it is engaged in a real combat scenario-oriented mission, the expert said, noting that the J-20 has entered the next level of combat readiness.

Source: Global Times “China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet flies without Luneburg lens, shows combat readiness”

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


China Winning Arms Race with the US


Since the beginning of Deng Xiaoping’s reform in late 1970s, China has been modernizing its military and believed that it had made substantial progress until the 1990-1991 Gulf War. Chinese military was shocked by US advanced military technology and began to make real efforts to modernize. However, it takes time to modernize a very backward military.

Anyway, there was no urgency as China had been US faithful follower and believe that the US would not hurt it in spite of the gap of strength. For example, as US faithful follower, China voted for the West’s UN Security Council resolution for regime change in Libya though it might suffer huge losses due to the regime change. Due to China’s support of the resolution, Russia was isolated and dared not veto the resolution.

US-China confrontation began in the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis when the US sent two aircraft battle groups in response to PRC’s missile tests around Taiwan. Finding itself no match to US forces, China began to step up its military buildup. It purchased from Russia Sovremenny-class destroyers, Kilo-class attack submarines and Su-30MKK and Su-30MK2 fighter jets.

Still, there were no urgency. At that time China had no intention to take Taiwan by force as, I believe, with US involvement, Taiwan might suffer great damage in the war so that China might not be benefited by taking a Taiwan in ruin.

China remained US faithful follower until 2010 when the then Obama’s Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton denied China’s rights and interests in the South China Sea in her speech. As the South China Sea locates far away from the US, the US has no right of claim whatever there. Moreover, the US always does not take side in other countries’ territorial disputes. Why would the US suddenly deny China’s rights and interests there? It would not have gained in any way by so doing. China began to realize that the US feared that China’s rise might threaten its world hegemony and wanted to create trouble to deter China’s rise. As there are great fish and energy resources in the South China Sea, China regard its right and interest there as its core interest. China regard Clinton’s speech as serious provocation.

China’s concerns were confirmed by Obama’s unprecedented participation in ASEAN summit meeting on November 11, 2011 and announcement of America’s return and pivot to Asia including increase in US military deployment in Asia to 60% of US forces.

In order to defend China’s interests and rights in the South China Sea, China began its unilateral arms race with the US. What China did in countering US containment is described in my previous posts.

China found that the weapons it had imported from Russia were far from enough to deter US aircraft carrier battle groups. However, there is nowhere to buy weapons powerful enough to counter the US as the US is the most advanced country militarily. No country is able to make weapons good enough to rival US ones. Even if they have, they may not be willing to sell their top weapons. As a result, China began to invest lots of financial and human resources in developing advanced weapons on its own.

China’s Tremendous Success in Developing Advanced Weapons

China’s military budget has merely been a fraction of US one and China was slow in its military modernization before US provocation, but since China began its arms race with the US, it has made tremendous progress.

Second Strike

It has achieved nuclear second strike capabilities. On land it now has deployed DF-31 and DF-41 ICBMs carried on mobile launchers that can hide in its 5,000km tunnels. With a range of 12,000 to15,000 km, DF-41 is one of ICBMs with the longest range in the world, able to hit anywhere in the United States. It carries 10 multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MITV) warheads difficult to intercept.

At sea, before the arms race China’s strategic nuclear submarines (SSBNs) were very noisy and regarded as other navies’ laughing stokes. Due to China’s efforts in arms race, China has developed very quiet nuclear submarines as silent as US SSBNs. Its advanced SSBNs carry JL-2 SLBMs with a range exceeding 7,000 km. Since late 2010, it has been testing JL-3 SLBMs with a range greater than 12,000 km that carries 10 MITVs. China is now building its most advanced Type 096 SSBN to be armed with JL-3s.

SSNs and Conventional Submarines

Under US military pressure, China has also improved its nuclear attack submarines (SSNs) with technology similar to its SSBNs. Its Type 093G SSN is as silent as US improved Los Angeles-class submarines. It is now building its quieter more advanced Type 095 SSNs. China has expanded its submarine shipyard in Huludao to be able to build 5 nuclear submarines at the same time. With such capacity, China may have more SSBNs and SSNs than the US in the future.

In addition, China is now able to make conventional submarines with air independent propulsion (AIP) the Yuan-class (Type 039A). It has developed submarine launched missiles to attack ship and submarine. Such missiles leave water to fly in the air and are therefore much faster to hit its target than a torpedo.

Anti-aircraft Carrier Missiles

To deal with US aircraft carriers, China has developed and deployed DF-21D and DF-26 anti-ship ballistic missiles. The missiles are so powerful as to be regarded as carrier killers.

Hypersonic Missiles

China even leads the US in hypersonic technology. It has developed and deployed DF-17 hypersonic missiles when the US has been trying hard to develop one.

Air Force

China has made great progress in modernizing its air force to be rival to the US. Its J-20 stealth fighter is said better than US F-22 and F-35. Compared with F-22, J-20 is developed later with quite some new technologies F-22 is unable to apply. Compared with F-35, J-20 is powered by two engines. It is heavier to carry more weapons and faster and better maneuverable. It is to be powered by very powerful WS-15 engines. Some media speculated that the engine is still not mature enough to use but others say that new J-20s have already been equipped with WS-15s.

Anyway, unlike before the arms race, China’s air force is now able to deal with US one.

As for further development, both China and the US are developing new long-range strategic bombers and 6th-generation fighters. The US has announced its success in test flight of its 6th-generation fighter but keep details about it in secret. There has been Chinese domestic report that China has tested its Mach 4.5 aircraft, details of which have also been kept secret.

Navy

Chinese navy has also developed new warships. Its Type 055 destroyer is better than US one. China is catching up with the US in building aircraft carriers. China has built and commissioned a homegrown carrier the Shandong, but it is a ski jump one without any catapults. According to report, China is now building a new aircraft carrier with electromagnetic catapult. There is speculation that China’s next aircraft carrier will be nuclear powered, but this blogger doubts that.

If China is able to build a carrier with electromagnetic catapult, it should be regarded as China has caught up with the US in carrier construction. China has no need to build a nuclear one as it does not need one. An aircraft carrier has to be accompanied with a group of warships to operate safely and efficiently. It does not make sense that only one ship in the group is nuclear powered while all others are conventional. Only when a carrier is to be used for world hegemony to deal with countries with no sufficiently powerful navy or air force does an aircraft carrier need to be nuclear powered to stay near its enemy for a long time with nuclear power without the need of refueling or the protection of enough number of conventional warships in its battle group.

As China does not pursue world hegemony, it needs no nuclear aircraft carrier that is too complicated and costly to maintain.

Anti-satellite and Anti-ASAT Capabilities

China has developed satellites to catch or blind enemy satellites. To counter other’s anti-satellite capabilities, China has developed Quaizhou series satellites to be on standby on their mobile launchers hidden in tunnels. Those satellites have already been adjusted to be able to replace the satellites shot down by the enemy. They will satesfy China’s needs for the satellites destroyed.

China’s above mentioned achievements in its arms race with the US proves that China has been winning in its arms race with the US.

Article by Chan Kai Yee


Is China About to Give Its Best Fighters Powerful New Jet Engines?


A game-changer?

by Sebastien Roblin

March 5, 2020

Key point: Beijing wants the best for its vaunted fighter jets. And that means better engines to allow them to compete with America’s finest.

In a 2018 Zhuhai airshow in China, a specially modified Chengdu J-10B single-engine multi-role jet wowed audiences with a series of jaw-dropping maneuvers including the famous Pugachev’s Cobra and the Falling Leaf, in which the diving aircraft spun laterally on its horizontal aircraft as it seemingly floated lazily towards the ground. You can see the stunts in this video.

This first appeared in 2018 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Like its American counterpart the F-16 jet, the J-10—dubbed the Vigorous Dragon, or the Firebird by NATO—is a quite agile fourth-generation jet with an aerodynamically unstable airframe that has to be regulated by its flight control computer. But such maneuvers would have been impossible for a regular plane relying entirely upon conventional flight controls.

The secret-sauce in the J-10B at Zhuhai was its powerplant: instead of the usual Russian AL-31F(N) turbofan, it boasted a WS-10B Taihang engine normally reserved for use on the larger twin-engine Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon stealth fighter.

More importantly, this particular Taihang (labeled the WS-10G in some sources) was modified with three-dimensional Thrust Vector Controls (TVC) allowing the pilot to redirect the engine’s thrust by tilting the exhaust nozzles side by side as well as up and down.

This enhances the jet’s ability to adjust pitch, roll and yaw, granting the J-10B super-maneuverable flight characteristics, in which the pilot retains control of the aircraft during a stall, unlike for a conventional plane.

Aside from various testbeds, the United States only operationally deploys a single TVC-equipped fighter, the super high-performing F-22 Raptor air superiority stealth fighter equipped with two-dimensional TVC. Lockheed did not incorporate TVC in the later F-35 Lightning attack-oriented stealth jet.

Russia has adopted TVC engines on a larger-scale in the fourth-generation Su-30MK, Su-35S and MiG-35 fighters, as well as its Su-57 stealth fighter. China’s purchase of 36 Su-35 fighters in 2016 likely gave it access to technology it used to inform the TVC-equipped WS-10.

The ability to perform tight maneuvers is obviously slick card for pilots to hold up their sleeve in a within-visual range dogfight, potentially allowing them to outmaneuver nearby foes and possibly dodge an incoming missile.

But the value of incorporating heavier and more expensive TVC engines remains debated in Western aviation circles, because performing such extreme maneuvers drains away the jet’s energy in terms of speed and altitude that can be traded for speed. That means that a tight maneuver may pay off against an immediate threat, but then leave the TVC-equipped jet in question a ponderous state in which it would struggle to evade follow-up attacks.

It’s alleged that over-reliance on thrust-vectoring led to the defeat of Indian Air Force Su-30MKI fighters which dueled American F-15C jets in a Red Flag exercise in 2008.

Another issue is that the advent of high-off-boresight missiles like the American AIM-9X and Russian R-73 missiles and helmet-mounted sights on the latest fourth-generation fighters allow pilots to launch short-range air-to-air missiles at targets without having the nose of the plane pointed at them (though being so positioned remains desirable due to the added momentum.) This reduces, but hardly eliminates, the advantages granted by superior maneuverability.

The Troubled Taihang

Photos have revealed additional J-10Bs and more advanced J-10Cs modified as WS-10B testbeds, both with and without thrust-vectoring. in November 2019, photos emerged of a yellow composite-skinned J-10C with production model serials equipped with higher-thrust non-TVC WS-10B turbofans.

Furthermore, a J-20 stealth fighter testbed equipped with a thrust-vectoring engine is also known to exist.

China has for years struggled to get its indigenous WS-10 turbofans, particularly their metallurgy and single-crystal fan blades, to perform to the specifications and reliability required of them. Reportedly, early WS-10s had to be returned to the factory for refurbishment after only a few dozen flight hours.

For that reason, its J-20 stealth fighters often make do with lower-thrust Russian AL-31F engines, and so the beastly stealth jet has yet to attain its full projected performance characteristics.

After years of refinements, J-10 and J-20 manufacturer CAIG hopes the WS-10B model marks a more consistent step up in thrust and performance while China completes the development of a much higher-performance WS-15 turbofan.

The WS-15 is projected to generate 40,000 pounds of thrust, possibly boosting J-20 speeds to the point it can super cruise—fly supersonic in level flight without using fuel-gulping afterburners. The WS-15 is also speculated to feature three-dimensional thrust vectoring.

The question that emerges, therefore is whether the multiple J-10 TVC testbeds indicate China intends to build a higher-thrust, and possibly thrust-vectoring J-10D production model to succeed its very respectable J-10C fighter (detailed further in a companion article).

Or do the tests instead indicate CAIG’s focus on making thrust-vectoring J-20 stealth fighters? Dr. Andreas Rupprecht, author of the Modern Chinese Warplanes series of books, told Defense News earlier in 2019 it’s more likely that the J-10 engine testbeds are being used to test capabilities that will make their way into new WS-15 engine planned for the J-20.

The predominant theory in western circles is that beefy J-20 is exhibiting high-speed but inferior maneuverability, making it best suited for hit-and-run style attacks. But China’s evident sustained interest in testing agility-enhancing TVC engines may support a counternarrative that the J-20 is intended to evolve into a more well-rounded jet once upgraded with new engines, one that could more than hold its own in within-visual range combat.

Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring. This first appeared in 2018 and is being reposted due to reader interest.


China air force plays up J-20 stealth strength as Taiwan tensions brew


PLA highlights fighter’s combat capacity in drill led by junior pilot from the Eastern Theatre Command

Pilot shoots down 17 enemy planes without loss in exercise, report says

Liu Zhen in Beijing

Published: 11:00pm, 15 Sep, 2020

China’s J-20 stealth aircraft take part in a drill to simulate combat. Photo: 81.cn

The Chinese military has highlighted advances in stealth jet technology as tensions rise with Taiwan, reporting record results in a simulated combat exercise.

The PLA Daily, the official newspaper of the People’s Liberation Army, reported on Monday that a junior pilot in a J-20 stealth fighter “shot down” 17 enemy planes without taking any “hits” in the simulation exercise.

According to the report, the pilot, Chen Xinhao, had just 100 hours in the J-20 and is from the PLA Air Force’s elite Wang Hai Unit under the Eastern Theatre Command, which would spearhead any military campaign in a conflict with Taiwan.

Chen and his wingmen challenged “multiple waves of enemy planes from different directions” and knocked down a total of 17 with “0 damage” on his side, the report said.

The report did specify the opponents in the exercise but three J-16 multirole fighters were also pictured in the report.

Beijing views Taiwan as a breakaway province to be reunified with the mainland by force if necessary, and tensions have risen between the two in recent years, with the PLA mounting regular air patrols around the self-ruled island.

The fifth-generation J-20 was developed in China and entered service in 2017.

The single-seat twin-engine fighter is the air force’s first, and so far only, heavy stealth air superiority fighter in service. Its speed and ability to evade enemy radar and advanced avionics has made it the “backbone” of China’s air strength.

It has big advantages over older generations of aircraft but has been dogged by engine development problems.

The WS-15 engine designed for the fighter has long been behind schedule, forcing the air force to use inferior engines that limit the aircraft’s performance.

The J-20s are also in short supply. Although its maker, Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group, is believed to have a production line to build about one plane a month, only around 50 are thought to have been delivered.

Video

Powerful Dragon v Raptor: how China’s J-20 stealth fighters compare with America’s F-22s

Meanwhile, the Taiwanese air force is becoming the world’s biggest operator of fourth-generation aircraft, last month placing a US$8 billion order for 66 upgraded F-16V fighters.

The first two planes in the order are expected to be delivered in 2023 and will add to the 150 F-16A/B fighters the island bought in the 1990s.

China’s J-20s have also been spotted near the disputed border with India, where New Delhi deployed its new fourth-generation French Dassault Rafales.

India and China have engaged in the worst stand-off for decades on their Himalayan border and have sent reinforcements to the front line.

Source: SCMP “China air force plays up J-20 stealth strength as Taiwan tensions brew”

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


China’s J-20 fighter jets near India border? State media downplays report


China’s armed forces have so far not made any announcement about deploying fighter aircraft near the border though it is likely fighter jet squadrons are stationed near the long and disputed border with India.

INDIA Updated: Aug 19, 2020 15:38 IST

Sutirtho Patranobis

Hindustan Times, Beijing

The J-20 is China’s fourth-generation medium- and long-range fighter aircraft, and it was commissioned into air force combat service in 2018. (Videograb)

The deployment of China’s most advanced J-20 stealth fighter near the border with India should not be over-interpreted in context of the Sino-India border friction as the tension is de-escalating, Chinese state media has said.

The long-range jets’ deployment, which is yet to be confirmed by the People’s Liberation Army Airforce (PLAAF), could be for the aircraft’s long-distance flight practice and part of the warplane’s protocols to adapt to different environment, Global Times, the nationalistic tabloid, said in an article.

The article was referring to a news article published in Forbes, which cited satellite imagery to claim that two J-20 fighter aircraft have been deployed by the PLAAF near the India-China border.

The J-20 is China’s fourth-generation medium- and long-range fighter aircraft, and it was commissioned into air force combat service in 2018.

The aircraft were spotted, some 320 km from the border, at the Hotan airport in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

China’s armed forces have so far not made any announcement about deploying fighter aircraft near the border though it is likely fighter jet squadrons are stationed near the long and disputed border with India.

The J-20 is a long-range heavy fighter jet. So, when deployed in Hotan, it can potentially cover many areas in Central and South Asia,” it said.

The nationalistic tabloid, known for its anti-India rhetoric, however, sought to play down the development.

The deployment if true is “…likely part of normal training on long distance flight and environment adaptation,” Chinese military aviation expert Fu Qianshao said.

China is a large country with many airfields in various terrains and under different climate conditions, and the J-20 needs to fly in more regions to adapt, Fu said.

The border tensions have already been de-escalating, and foreign media’s reports could have ulterior motives, the state media article said.

Earlier this month, experts had told the tabloid that the Rafale fighter jets were no match for its J-20 stealth fighter jets, days after the first batch of five French-made warplanes landed in Ambala.

Chinese experts told state media that the Rafale is only a third-plus generation fighter jet and does not stand much of a chance against a stealth, fourth-generation one like the J-20.

Saying that the Rafale is superior to the Su-30 MKI in certain aspects, the acquisition does not yield a significant qualitative change for India, it said.

In some combat performance areas, the Rafale is superior to the Su-30 MKI fighter jets, which are in service in the Indian Air Force in large batches, but it is only about one-fourth of a generation more advanced and does not yield a significant qualitative change,” it said.

The J-20 made its maiden flight in 2011 and was first shown to the public at the 11th Airshow China in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, in south China, in November 2016, according to the official news agency, Xinhua.

The fighters made their parade debut when the PLA marked its 90th anniversary in July 2017 at Zhurihe military training base in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

In the backdrop of the ongoing border tension, India last week called on China to work jointly for “complete disengagement and de-escalation” on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), saying the future of the bilateral relationship is dependent on the situation along the disputed frontier.

Chinese troops are said to have pulled back from Galwan Valley, the scene of the June 15 clash that resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers and unspecified Chinese casualties, and some friction points, but the troop withdrawal hasn’t moved forward in the Finger Areas of Pangong Lake, Gogra and Depsang.

Source: Hindustan Times “China’s J-20 fighter jets near India border? State media downplays report”

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


China unveils two-seater design for stealth plane based on J-20 fighter


  • Breakthrough variant intended as early-warning aircraft and command centre for jets and rocket launchers

  • Seating design similar to Russian Su-34 would be a world first among single-seater stealth warplanes

Minnie Chan

China’s advanced J-20 jet fighter is the template for a two-seater stealth aircraft in development. Photo: Xinhua

China is developing a new generation two-seater stealth warplane, based on its most advanced fighter the J-20, intended as an early-warning aircraft that will serve as a command centre for other weapons such as fighter jets and rocket launchers.

Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute (CADI), developer of the J-20, is working on the breakthrough variant which will be the first stealth fighter in the world to accommodate two pilots. It will also be more innovative, according to an online report published earlier this week.

The report, which appeared on War Industry Black Technology, a social media platform run by Shenzhen-based Quantum Defence Cloud Technology, included a design sketch of the twin-seater variant and said it would serve as a small, early-warning warplane.

The design sketch for the twin-seater J-20 variant, with a similar cockpit configuration to the Russian Su-34. Photo: Handout

The design is similar to the Russian Su-34 twin-seater supersonic medium-range fighter bomber, with a side-by-side seating arrangement in the cockpit which the report said would help the two pilots better communicate and share information effectively.

As the new generation aircraft with capabilities of stealth and supersonic cruise, the new platform also needs to command drones, other fighter jets, and even ground-based rocket launchers, as well as surface warships and submarines, making it a small early-warning aircraft,” it said.

A military insider said the new plane would be equipped with defensive air-to-air weapons, but would not be used as a bomber, contrary to mainland media reports.

It is not a real bomber. To maintain stealth and agility, all missiles should be put inside the bays, that means only light air-to-air bombs are allowed,” said the insider, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

The heavy explosives required for air-to-ground and air-to-sea missiles could only be accommodated under the craft’s wings, drastically reducing its stealth capabilities.

A Sukhoi Su-34 cockpit simulator. Photo: Handout

All bombers carrying heavy bombs would be easily detected by the integrated air defence system (IADS),” the insider said. “That means two-seater stealth fighters could not cause any threat to American military bases or even aircraft carrier strike groups.”

Most training planes and bombers feature tandem seating, with the front seat pilot taking care of the flight while the co-pilot focuses from the back seat on the weaponry, so the design of the new variant is noteworthy.

Hong Kong-based military commentator Song Zhongping said the J-20 could be upgraded and modified to different variants because of its strong detection capability and capacity to connect multichannel intelligence and electronic warfare information.

But it may take longer [to develop] if the new aircraft uses the double-seat design. The aerodynamic shape of the aircraft should make major changes,” Song said. “Then it would no longer be the original J-20 model, but another new type.”

The two-seater stealth fighter is just one of the variants developed by CADI based on the J-20 platform. According to the military insider, the institute’s top priority is to develop a carrier-based stealth fighter jet for China’s next generation aircraft carrier, the Type 002, currently in final assembly and featuring electromagnetic catapult launching systems.

CADI and its sister company, Shenyang Aircraft Design Institute – which developed the J-15, China’s only active carrier-based fighter jet – are racing to develop a next-generation fighter capable of competing with the American F35 ship-borne fighter.

Variants of the J-20 were flagged by its chief designer Yang Wei at the 2018 China Airshow in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, when he told a press conference that more variants of the J-20 would be developed to meet the new requirements of future warfare.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Two-seater stealth fighter jet hailedas breakthrough

Source: SCMP “China unveils two-seater design for stealth plane based on J-20 fighter”

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


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.


China Warns India’s Rafale Fighters ‘Have No Chance’ Against Chinese Stealth Jets


Michael Peck, Contributor

BEIJING, Nov. 1, 2016 — A J-20 stealth fighter of China flies at the 11th China International … [+] XINHUA NEWS AGENCY VIA GETTY IMAGES

Chinese and Indian fighters are engaging in vicious dogfights.

Not in the air, but over the airwaves, where both nations are claiming that their newest jets are superior to those of their rival.

Last week, former Indian Air Force chief B.S. Dhanoa claimed that China’s new J-20 stealth fighter “doesn’t come close” to India’s new French-made Rafale fighters. Dhanoa boasted the Rafale’s “top-of-the-line electronic warfare suite, Meteor beyond-visual-range [air-to-air] missile and Scalp air-to-ground weapon with its terrain following capability outguns any threat that the Chinese Air Force produces,” according to the Hindustan Times.

It’s China’s surface-to-air missiles – not its jet fighters — that are the biggest threat, Dhanoa said. He also suggested that Chinese military technology is so poor that even Beijing’s ally Pakistan, which operates Chinese warplanes and tanks, has little faith in it. Dhanoa claimed that during air clashes with India in 2019, the Pakistani Air Force relied on American-made F-16s and French-made Mirages, while its JF-17 fighters – a joint China-Pakistan design – only played a minor role. “Why does Pakistan use Swedish early air warning platforms up north [near the disputed border with India] and keep its Chinese AWACS in the south? Why is Pakistan mounting a European radar and Turkish targeting pod on the Chinese JF-17? The answer is quite evident.”

Dhanoa extolled the Rafale as a “game changer.” India has deployed the first five Rafales, which arrived last week, to the Ladakh area of the Himalayas, where China and India fought border clashes in June. India is slated to receive 36 Rafales, which are flown by the French Air Force and Navy, as well as Egypt and Qatar.

Considering how much prestige China has invested in its newest high-tech jets and warships, there was no chance that Beijing was going to let those jibes pass without a response.

Chinese experts said that the Rafale is only a third-plus generation fighter jet, and does not stand much of a chance against a stealth, fourth-generation one like the J-20,” replied China’s state-owned Global Times.

Chinese military experts claim the Rafale is only marginally better than India’s existing Russian-designed Su-30 MKI fighters. “In some combat performance areas, the Rafale is superior to the Su-30 MKI fighter jets, which are in service in the Indian air force in large batches, but it is only about one-fourth of a generation more advanced and does not yield a significant qualitative change,” Global Times said.

Thanks to its AESA radar, advanced weapons and limited stealth technologies, the Rafale is comparable to other third-plus generation fighter jets used by other countries, but it will find it very difficult to confront a stealth-capable fourth generation fighter jet,” said Global Times.

Actually, the 10-ton Rafale is generally considered a 4.5-generation fighter, with some moderate stealth capability to avoid radar and infrared detection, though less than fifth-generation aircraft like the U.S. F-35. On the other hand, it is far more maneuverable in a close-range dogfight than an F-35. The twin-engine Rafale can also use “supercruise” to fly at supersonic speed without gulping fuel as older jets do.

Against Chinese fighters, the Rafale’s most deadly weapon is the Meteor, a ramjet-powered, radar-guided, beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air missile with an estimated range of more than 50 miles. Using its AESA radar and Meteor missiles, it might be able to pick off Chinese jets at long range.

Much less is known about the J-20, of which China has around 50. Weighing in at 21 tons, it is bigger and heavier than the Rafale. While the Rafale looks a bit like the nimble U.S. F-16, the J-20 resembles larger aircraft like the U.S. F-22 and Russian Su-57 stealth fighters. There has been some debate in Western circles as to whether the J-20 is a heavy interceptor designed to engage targets at long range, or whether it’s also a capable dogfighter. The latest J-20B version reportedly will be equipped with thrust vector control, while allow engine nozzles to be tilted for better maneuverability.

The J-20’s primary weapon is the PL-15, a radar-guided, very-long-range air-to-air missile which may be able to hit aircraft up to 200 kilometers [124 miles] away, outranging weapons like the Meteor U.S. AIM-120 missile. If the PL-15 indeed has the capability to pick off Indian aircraft at that distance – and that’s a big if – then it would give the J-20 an edge should China and India fight for air superiority over Ladakh.

But super-missiles or not, like Russia from whom it licensed or copied so many aircraft, the weak point of Chinese fighters has been their jet engines, which are less powerful and reliable than Western designs. J-20 production has stalled as China equipped the fighter with Russian AL-31 engines while attempting to develop the more powerful, domestically-produced WS-15 engine for the J-20B. But the J-20B has entered mass production amid expectations that the WS-15 will be ready in a year or two, the South China Morning Post reported in July 2020.

So is the Rafale or the J-20 the better fighter? First, neither aircraft has really been tested in battle. The J-20 has yet to see action, so its capabilities – such as whether it’s really stealthy enough to avoid radar detection – remains to be seen. The Rafale has seen some combat, but only bombing poorly defended targets in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and Syria. Neither plane has been pitted against opponents with advanced fighters and anti-aircraft missiles, so their strengths and weaknesses have yet to be revealed.

More important, as I’ve said before, is that any conflict between nuclear-armed nations like China and India would be small and carefully controlled to avoid escalation. Any battle between Rafales and J-20s would depend less on factors like aircraft maneuverability, and more on factors like pilot quality, and the presence of ground radar, anti-aircraft missiles, well-integrated command networks, aerial tankers to replenish fuel-hungry fighters, and how far each side’s airbases are from the battlefield.

For example, Chinese airbases in Ladakh have limited capacity, while larger airfields in Xinjiang and Tibet are up to 600 miles away. India’s Ambala’s airbase, where the Rafales will be based, is just 300 miles from the disputed area.

Barring some unrevealed technical breakthrough in stealth, sensors or missiles – or some hidden flaw in aircraft design – it seems unlikely that the capabilities of the J-20 or Rafale alone will decide who rules Himalayan skies.

Source: Forbes “China Warns India’s Rafale Fighters ‘Have No Chance’ Against Chinese Stealth Jets”

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


China’s J-20 carrier-based jet fighter influenced by US – not Soviet – thinking, designer says


  • As the race to find the best platform for a modified fighter hots up, designer wins critics’ support by selling the American angle

  • PLA Navy ‘should choose a reliable platform that has a long combat range and potential for development … and the best choice is the J-20,’ expert says

Minnie Chan

Published: 10:00pm, 2 Aug, 2020

The chief designer of the J-20 said the plane was a better match for US fighters.

The chief designer of the J-20 said the plane was a better match for US fighters. Photo: Xinhua

As tensions between Beijing and Washington continue to rise, China’s military aircraft designers are racing to develop a next-generation fighter jet for use on the nation’s aircraft carriers capable of competing with their American rivals.

The two contenders are Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute (CADI), which is working on a modified version of its J-20, and Shenyang Aircraft Design Institute, which is adapting its FC-31.

While both aircraft have been in development for many years, CADI’s chief designer, Yang Wei, said recently the J-20 was a better match for US fighters.

The aircraft was inspired by American theories on air combat and jet development, he said in a recent article published in the Chinese journal Acta Aeronautica et Astronautica Sinica.

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Military observers said that by openly stating he had learned from American ideas, Yang was trying to promote the modified J-20 as a superior option to the adapted FC-31, which is based on much older, Soviet, designs.

The designer also said in the article that the US military had been able to develop a carrier-based jet fighter and put it into mass production in less than six years.

If the [Chinese] leadership decides to use the FC-31 as the platform for the new carrier-based fighter, it would be at least 10 years before it was ready for full deployment, by which time the Americans would be even further ahead,” said a person with links to the military, who asked not to be named.

Yang said in the article, which was widely shared on military news websites, it was essential that the next-generation fighter had a long combat range, enhanced stealth capabilities and a bigger weapon load.

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Beijing-based military expert Zhou Chenming said Yang wanted to prove the J-20 was not only a fifth-generation fighter, but could be a platform for “advanced induction reaction devices and other new technologies” capable of targeting the shortcomings of its American rival, the F-22 Raptor.

Fifth-generation fighters feature stealth technology, supersonic cruising speeds, super manoeuvrability and highly integrated avionics.

Zhou said that in the past, China’s aircraft designers had been heavily influenced by Russian thinking and because of that focused almost exclusively on the fighting capabilities of their jets. But Yang, he said, stressed the need to consider other factors as well.

Because of the Russian influence, Chinese designers ignored things like avionics systems and weapons,” Zhou said. “Russia’s MiG-29, for instance, had no chance of competing with its American counterpart, the all-weather multirole F-16.”

China’s FC-31 is up to 12 tonnes lighter than the J-20. Photo: Weibo

One possible disadvantage of the J-20 as a carrier-based fighter is that it is much heavier than the FC-31. China’s newest aircraft carriers will be fitted with an electromagnetic catapult launch system, which although reducing take-off times comes with a weight restriction.

With a maximum weight of 25 tonnes, the FC-31 is up to 12 tonnes lighter than the J-20 and about three metres (10 feet) shorter.

The FC-31 was developed to match the United States’ F-35, which was built by Lockheed Martin and the platform for the carrier-based F-35B and F-35C.

Despite that comparison, Macau-based military expert Antony Wong Tong said the FC-31 was no match for the F-35 in terms of manoeuvrability or firepower.

Based on China’s current technology and production capacity, the PLA Navy should choose a reliable platform that has a long combat range and potential for development. And the best choice for that is the J-20,” he said.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: J-20 carrier-based fighter ‘influenced by US ideas’

Source: SCMP “China’s J-20 carrier-based jet fighter influenced by US – not Soviet – thinking, designer says”

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