China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter is a Force to be Reckoned With


Image: Wikimedia

It is safe to assume the plane isn’t as good as the F-35, but it still better than many fighters.

by Mark Episkopos July 10, 2020

Here’s What You Need to Remember: There is much that is still unknown about the J-20, including its launch mechanism and the final specifications of its WS-15 engine currently in development.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force made waves at the 2018 Zhuhai Airshow with the latest showing of their flagship fifth-generation stealth fighter, the J-20.

As is common with airshow coverage, large swaths of the ensuing commentary focused on the J-20’s handling and maneuverability as it performed a series of rolls and a climb. But this elides what is perhaps the most significant aspect of the J-20’s Zhuhai showing: its weapons system.

During the performance, the J-20 opened its missile bay doors to reveal four PL-15 missiles accompanied by two PL-10 missiles on either side. The PL-15 is a long range air-to-air missile slated to enter service in 2018. Outfitted with an active electronically scanned radar and featuring a reported maximum range of up to 300 km, the PL-15’s impressive specifications place it in the ranks of the top air-to-air missiles along with the European Meteor missile and Russian K-37M.

The PL-15’s effective range in actual aerial engagements is certain to be lower than the maximum range 300 km, but is nonetheless much higher than its American AIM-120 AMRAAM counterpart’s estimated 180 km or less. American general Herbert Carlisle voiced serious concerns in 2015 when the development of the PL-15 entered the public knowledge: “Look at our adversaries and what they’re developing, things like the PL-15 and the range of that weapon.” General Carlisle raised the same issue in an interview with FlightGlobal: “The PL-15 and the range of that missile, we’ve got to be able to out-stick that missile.”

The American F-22 and F-35 fighters are now equipped with the latest AIM 120-D missiles, but a massive range deficit remains nonetheless. The challenge of the PL-15 comes on the heels of questions about the uncertain future of the aging AMRAAM system. As Captain James Stoneman put it to the National Interest: “Currently there is no program of record for a follow-on… we’ve probably close to maxing it out.” Development of the latest Block III iteration of the short range AIM-9X was cancelled, and Raytheon struggles with a necessary AMRAAM refresh.

The J-20’s two side-mounted PL-10 missiles, while less conspicuous than their long range counterpart, are a key factor in the J-20’s operational versatility. A short-range infrared air-to-air missile, the PL-10 can be fired at off boresight angles of 90 degrees using the J-20’s Helmet Mounted Display (HMD). In other words, the PL-10’s on the J-20 can be fired in the direction that the pilot points their head.

Off boresight targeting is by no means a new technology. In fact, the PL-10 is China’s response to the AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder short range missiles that the United States is selling to Taiwan. There is no reliable information on the PL-10’s range at the time of writing, but it is expected to at least match AIM-9X’s reported maximum range of 20-22 km. Iterative performance differences aside, it is a bigger long-term concern is that the PL-10 and PL-15 are reportedly built with the latest anti-jamming technology at a time when the AIM- 9X and AIM-120D are perceived as increasingly vulnerable to modern digital radio frequency memory (DRFM) jamming techniques.

There is much that is still unknown about the J-20, including its launch mechanism and the final specifications of its WS-15 engine currently in development. It remains to be seen if this particular armament configuration makes it into the regular production process, but the juxtaposition of the PL-15 and PL-10 inside the J-20’s frame can become a stark concern for the United States and some of its regional allies who continue to rely on aging AMRAAM technology.

Mark Episkopos is a frequent contributor toThe National Interest and serves as research assistant at the Center for the National Interest. Mark is also a PhD student in History at American University. This article first appeared in 2018 and is being republished due to reader interest.

Source: National Interest “China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter is a Force to be Reckoned With”

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.


Yes, China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter Could Shoot Down an F-22 or F-35


Here’s how.

by Mark Episkopos June 28, 2020

Key Point: A massive missile range deficit makes American fighters more vulnerable.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force made waves at the 2018 Zhuhai Airshow with the latest showing of their flagship fifth-generation stealth fighter, the J-20.

As is common with airshow coverage, large swaths of the ensuing commentary focused on the J-20’s handling and maneuverability as it performed a series of rolls and a climb. But this elides what is perhaps the most significant aspect of the J-20’s Zhuhai showing: its weapons system.

During the performance, the J-20 opened its missile bay doors to reveal four PL-15 missiles accompanied by two PL-10 missiles on either side. The PL-15 is a long range air-to-air missile slated to enter service in 2018. Outfitted with an active electronically scanned radar and featuring a reported maximum range of up to 300 km, the PL-15’s impressive specifications place it in the ranks of the top air-to-air missiles along with the European Meteor missile and Russian K-37M.

The PL-15’s effective range in actual aerial engagements is certain to be lower than the maximum range 300 km, but is nonetheless much higher than its American AIM-120 AMRAAM counterpart’s estimated 180 km or less. American general Herbert Carlisle voiced serious concerns in 2015 when the development of the PL-15 entered the public knowledge: “Look at our adversaries and what they’re developing, things like the PL-15 and the range of that weapon.” General Carlisle raised the same issue in an interview with FlightGlobal: “The PL-15 and the range of that missile, we’ve got to be able to out-stick that missile.”

The American F-22 and F-35 fighters are now equipped with the latest AIM 120-D missiles, but a massive range deficit remains nonetheless. The challenge of the PL-15 comes on the heels of questions about the uncertain future of the aging AMRAAM system. As Captain James Stoneman put it to the National Interest: “Currently there is no program of record for a follow-on… we’ve probably close to maxing it out.” Development of the latest Block III iteration of the short range AIM-9X was cancelled, and Raytheon struggles with a necessary AMRAAM refresh.

The J-20’s two side-mounted PL-10 missiles, while less conspicuous than their long range counterpart, are a key factor in the J-20’s operational versatility. A short-range infrared air-to-air missile, the PL-10 can be fired at off boresight angles of 90 degrees using the J-20’s Helmet Mounted Display (HMD). In other words, the PL-10’s on the J-20 can be fired in the direction that the pilot points their head.

Off boresight targeting is by no means a new technology. In fact, the PL-10 is China’s response to the AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder short range missiles that the United States is selling to Taiwan. There is no reliable information on the PL-10’s range at the time of writing, but it is expected to at least match AIM-9X’s reported maximum range of 20-22 km. Iterative performance differences aside, it is a bigger long-term concern is that the PL-10 and PL-15 are reportedly built with the latest anti-jamming technology at a time when the AIM- 9X and AIM-120D are perceived as increasingly vulnerable to modern digital radio frequency memory (DRFM) jamming techniques.

There is much that is still unknown about the J-20, including its launch mechanism and the final specifications of its WS-15 engine currently in development. It remains to be seen if this particular armament configuration makes it into the regular production process, but the juxtaposition of the PL-15 and PL-10 inside the J-20’s frame can become a stark concern for the United States and some of its regional allies who continue to rely on aging AMRAAM technology.

Mark Episkopos is a frequent contributor to the National Interest and serves as a research assistant at the Center for the National Interest. Mark is also a PhD student in History at American University. This article first appeared in 2018 and is reprinted here due to reader interest.

Source: National Interest “Yes, China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter Could Shoot Down an F-22 or F-35”

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.


Chinese J-20 Stealth Jets Decades Ahead Of Any Indian Aircraft Including Rafale Jets


Published 2 days ago on June 23, 2020

By EurAsian Times Desk

Chinese experts have claimed that Indian, Russian, French and US-origin weapons are no match against Chinese weapons especially the J-20 stealth fighter jet which is decades ahead of any French or Russian jets that India operates.

JF-17 vs Rafale: Why Pakistani JF-17 Thunder Poses A Serious Threat To Indian Rafale Fighter Jets?

China’s state-run, Global Times (GT) not only ridiculed Indian but also Russian, French and US-origin weapons and claimed that their domestically manufactured weapons were better than the imported ones.

Chinese experts took a dig at Indian Air force since India has been using the US-made CH-47 Chinook transport helicopters to carry howitzers to the frontline and the AH-64 Apache attack helicopters for anti-tank missions.

Weighting its own superiority over India’s airforce capabilities, the GT wrote – “Chinese military experts said these weapons and equipment are no match for their Chinese counterparts like the PCL-181 and PLZ-05 self-propelled howitzers, Z-10 attack helicopters, and Type 15 and Type 99A tanks, as the capabilities of Chinese weaponry in terms of firepower, mobility, and tactics are far superior, and more so in high-altitude regions.”

However, Indian experts believe that “the Chinese airforce, in all probability, was never built around India as the main threat.”

Most of its famed bases are located far too inland to serve any practical purpose for an attack on India, let alone defending its border bases. To add to the problem, the few bases that the PLAAF has, which concerns India, are not mutually supportive – if one is attacked, the other does not come in its defence – something the IAF bases enjoy. The distance between Hotan and its nearest support, Kashgar, is approx 400-500 km, well beyond the supporting distance with present-day technology,” writes retired Wing Commander Amit Ranjan Giri.

Adding further to the criticism, the Chinese daily called Russian-made Mig-29s, Su-30s, French-made Mirage 2000 jets and joint Anglo-French Jaguar attack aircraft as popular products on the international market which are no match for China’s domestically developed J-10C and J-16 fighter jets.

It also mentioned that Chinese analysts believe that the country’s J-20 stealth fighter jet has a “generational advantage over Indian aircraft, a gap that cannot be fulfilled by any means.”

The Bravery Of Bihar Regiment Soldiers At Galwan Valley Against China’s PLA Troops Goes Viral

China that majorly uses domestic weapons questions India’s internationally imported arsenal and believes that “Indian troops use weapons made from all over the world, which means a high logistical support cost and incompatibility between systems”.

Previously, China had warned India of the anti-China sentiment that has penetrated the Indian masses. As reported by EurAsian Times, the GT had stated – If the boiling nationalist sentiment continues unchecked in India, it may lead to serious consequences, which would only weaken the market’s financial appeal to the outside world, making it easier it to be replaced with other Southeast Asian nation.

Source: eurasiantimes.com “Chinese J-20 Stealth Jets Decades Ahead Of Any Indian Aircraft Including Rafale Jets”

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


Sukhoi Su-57, Russia’s 5th Generation stealth fighter with 6th Generation technology?


Sukhoi Su-57, the 5th Generation Russian combat aircraft, also uses technologies being developed for the 6th Generation fighters making it a “breakthrough” platform. The Su-57, which is already in service with the Russian Aerospace Force, is the first 5th Generation fighter developed and operationalised by Russia.

Written By:

Zee Media Bureau

Updated: Jun 08, 2020, 13:16 PM IST

Sukhoi Su-57, the 5th Generation Russian combat aircraft, also uses technologies being developed for the 6th Generation fighters making it a “breakthrough” platform. The Su-57, which is already in service with the Russian Aerospace Force, is the first 5th Generation fighter developed and operationalised by Russia.

While the Russian authorities have not revealed many of the technical specifications of the Su-57, according to Chinese news portal Sohu, the Sukhoi fighter has the capability of an unmanned piloting mode and artificial-intelligence combat. The two features make the Su-57 a fighter which also incorporates 6th Generation technology.

The Sohu article mentions that Russia has made a “breakthrough” by using 6th Generation technologies in the Sukhoi-built jet. The unmanned pilot mode can allow the Su-57 to undergo extreme g force not possible in the current fighters in service with the air forces around the world. Most modern fighters can take up to 9g force but the pilot’s reaction becomes extremely slow in such a situation whereas an unmanned version of a fighter plane can take much more stress.

Russian defence officials have claimed that the unmanned version of Su-57 can withstand up to 15g stress. According to Russia’s Sputniknews.com, the development of the unpiloted mode of Su-57 fighter is already under progress.

“The T-50 (Sukhoi’s internal name for the Su-57) flying laboratory is testing an unpiloted mode. A pilot is in the cockpit during a flight but is just controlling the operation of all systems,” Sputniknews had quoted a defence source as saying on May 16, 2020.

China has its own 5th Generation fighter Chengdu J-20 which is in service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). Chengdu Aerospace Corporation, the developer of J-20, is also working on an unmanned version of the fighter. The first stealth fighter to enter service was the F-22 Raptor of the United States of America which also has operationalised the F-35 Lightning II, its second 5th Generation combat jet.

Along with stealth capabilities, the Su-57 claims to have supercruise, supermaneuverability and advanced avionics. A total of 76 Su-57 jets have been ordered for the Russian Aerospace Force and a few of them have already been delivered.

Source: zeenews.india.com “Sukhoi Su-57, Russia’s 5th Generation stealth fighter with 6th Generation technology?”

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


Shocking PLA Air Force Promotion Film with Rare Showoffs of J-20s


Mil.huanqiu.com shows a PLA Air Force promotion film today that shows off the flights of China’s advanced warplanes with focus on China’s stealth fighter jet J-20. The report titled “Fighting Eagles Defend Motherland at New Year! Air Force Issues Shocking Promotion Film with Rare Exposures of J-20s”.

The report and film in Chinese can be viewed at https://mil.huanqiu.com/article/3wkF1fErJZE. I don’t think the film needs translation.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on mil.huanqiu.com’s report.


J-20 Showed off Super Maneuverability in October 2019


National Interest said in its outdated 2019-April-23 article “The Real Top Gun: Could China’s J-20 Fighter Beat An F-35 or F-22 in a Dogfight?” that China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet “lacked the maneuverability necessary to prevail in close engagements with enemy fighters. Relatively modest aerobatic displays in the Zhuhai 2016 and 2018 airshows” so that it concluded that China’s J-20 cannot beat F-35 or F-22 in a dogfight.

Sorry, its information is outdated, in mid October 2019, J-20 showed off its superb maneuverability with full load of weapons in a display to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of PLA Air Force. That was because it has been equipped with world most powerful fighter engine WS-15. I provided the information of China’s success in developing WS-15 in my post “At Least 3 Batches of World Most Powerful WS-15 Engine Delivered” on September 1, 2019.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on National Interest’s article, full text of which can be viewed at https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/real-top-gun-could-chinas-j-20-fighter-beat-f-35-or-f-22-dogfight-53847


US Military to Fall Behind China’s despite Huge Budget


Forbes’ article “Building The Air Force We Need To Meet Chinese And Russian Threats” begins by saying, “In January, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) released its unclassified assessment of China’s military capabilities, with the telling subtitle: ‘Modernizing a Force to Fight and Win.’ As DIA director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley explained: ‘China is building a robust, lethal force with capabilities spanning the air, maritime, space and information domains which will enable China to impose its will in the region.’ He went on to emphasize: ‘…the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] is on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapons systems in the world. In some areas, it already leads the world.’”

The writer of the article blames former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates for ceasing production of stealth fighter F-22 as he predicted that China would not have any stealth fighter jet by 2020 but why did he no change his mind to regard China’s military development as a “threat” when China tested its J-20 stealth fighter for the first time when he visited China in 2011? Because he was arrogant and did not believe that China would succeed in satisfactorily developing J-20 by 2020.

Now, Pentagon has changed its mind and begun to take China’s military development seriously. However, the US lacks funds to substantially increase its military budget. With much smaller budget, China is still able to catch up with and surpass the US. What if it substantially increase its budget? China has lots of funds to do so.

How can the US stop its own decline and China’s rise?

Think about that.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Forbes’ article, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.forbes.com/sites/davedeptula/2019/02/11/building-the-air-force-we-need/amp/.


China Works Hard to Make Progress; US Enjoying Nostalgia of Past


In spite of the great progress China has achieved in catching up and surpassing Western powers, China is not satisfied with nor conceited about its successes as it has to fight for its own goals for its rejuvenation. If China has attained its goal for the next three decades, the US will fall far behind China. The US could not but remain enjoying the nostalgia of China’s failures in the past

It seems the US is helpless at China’s further rise as it has no national consensus to work hard to maintain its economic and technological leadership so that Americans have the mentality for nostalgia of the past.

To please them National Interest published an article dated October 14, 2018 more than one year ago to elaborate China’s problem in developing satisfactory engines for its warplanes especially WS-10 and WS-15 for China’s fighter jets. It chooses the date cleverly as three weeks later on November 6 China proves its success in developing a new version of WS-10 with vector thrust control (VTC) and showcased it in its airshow that day of a J-10B with VTC WS-10 engine that displayed its superb maneuverability in performing Pugachev’s Cobra and Falling Lease.

In Global Times report in Chinese on the event titled “When will J-20’s engines be replaced by vector engines? Yang Wei: How do you know they are not used” on November 7 says that when J-10B and J-20’s chief engineer Yang Wei was asked the question when J-20’s engines will be replaced by vector engines? “Yang Wei replied: your question is about when vector engines will be used on J-20, but how do you know that vector engines are not used on J-20 now?” (See my post “J-20 Uses Vector Engines and Has Superb Maneuverability” on November 7, 2018}

J-10B’s display of its super maneuverability proves China’s success in developing WS-10 engine with vector thrust. That is certainly based on its success in developing WS-10 without vector thrust.

Later on September 2019, there had been information that China had delivered at least three batches of WS-15 engines. I have a post about the information inferred from official news though information about WS-15 and J-20 remains China’s top secret. (See my post “At Least 3 Batches of World Most Powerful WS-15 Engine Delivered” on September 1, 2019.)

China is making progress so fast in developing technology while for decades the US has not been able to develop a powerful engine for F-35 to enable it to supercruise without boosting. It had better remain enjoying nostalgia of the news about China’s failures in the past.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on National Interest’s article, full text of which can be viewed at https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/chinas-air-force-has-one-big-problem-it-cant-seem-solve-34192


HUGE: That’s the Only Word to Describe China’s Air Force


But can it take on America in a fight?

by Sebastien Roblin

Unlike the F-22 Raptor, designed to be the ultimate air superiority fighter, or the single-engine multirole F-35 Lightning, the J-20 is a huge twin-engine beast optimized for speed, range and heavy weapons loads at the expense of maneuverability. (This reblogger’s note as J-20 is installed with world most powerful fighter jet engine WS-15, its maneuverability is better than F-22 and F-35 now)

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force of China and its sister branch, the PLA Naval Air Force, operate a huge fleet of around 1,700 combat aircraft—defined here as fighters, bombers and attack planes. This force is exceeded only by the 3,400 active combat aircraft of the U.S. military. Moreover, China operates a lot of different aircraft types that are not well known in the West.

(This first appeared several years ago. (This reblogger’s note: The article is not updated so that it fails to include recent developments such as China’s success in developing world most advanced fighter jet engine WS-15 and improvements of its WS-10 engine by turning it into an engine with vector thrust.))

However, most Chinese military aircraft are inspired by or copied from Russian or American designs, so it’s not too hard to grasp their capabilities if you know their origins. (This reblogger’s note: China’s J-10 with most of China’s own intellectual property and China’s J-20 with canard design entirely not cloned from US or Russia prove that the above description is outdated. For the most advanced technology including vector-thrust WS-10 engine in J-10, please refer to my reblog of National Interest article “Could This 1 Chinese Fighter Jet Take on the Air Forces Best?” on December 15.)

The Soviet-Era Clones

The Soviet Union and Communist China were best buddies during the 1950s, so Moscow transferred plenty of technology including tanks and jet fighters. One of the early Chinese-manufactured types was the J-6, a clone of the supersonic MiG-19, which has a jet intake in the nose. Though China built thousands of J-6s, all but a few have been retired. However, about 150 of a pointy-nosed ground-attack version, the Nanchang Q-5, remain in service, upgraded to employ precision-guided munitions.

Recommended: Why North Korea’s Air Force is Total Junk

Sino-Soviet friendship ended in an ugly breakup around 1960. But in 1962, the Soviets offered China a dozen hot new MiG-21 fighters as part of a peace overture. Beijing rejected the overture but kept the fighters, which were reverse-engineered into the sturdier (but heavier) Chengdu J-7. Production began slowly due to the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, but between 1978 and 2013 Chinese factories turned out thousands of the pencil-fuselage jet fighters in dozens of variants. Nearly four hundred still serve in the PLAAF and PLANAF.

The J-7 is a 1950s-era hot rod in terms of maneuverability and speed—it can keep up with an F-16 at Mach 2—but it cannot carry much fuel or armament, and it has a weak radar in its tiny nose cone. Still, China has worked to keep the J-7 relevant. The J-7G introduced in 2004 includes an Israeli doppler radar (detection range: thirty-seven miles) and improved missiles for beyond-visual range capabilities, as well as a digital “glass cockpit.”

These aircraft would struggle against modern fourth-generation fighters that can detect and engage adversaries at much greater ranges, though hypothetically mass formations could attempt to overwhelm defenders with swarm attacks. Still, the J-7s allow China to maintain a larger force of trained pilots and support personnel until new designs come into service.

China’s B-52

Another Soviet-era clone is the Xi’an H-6, a twin-engine strategic bomber based on the early-1950s era Tu-16 Badger. Though less capable than the U.S. B-52 or Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers, the air-refuelable H-6K remains relevant because it could lug heavy long-range cruise-missiles hit naval or ground targets as far as four thousand miles from China without entering the range of air defenses. The H-6 was originally tasked with dropping nuclear weapons, but the PLAAF no longer seems interested in this role. Xi’an is reportedly developing a new H-20 strategic bomber, though there’s little information available so far.

Domestic Innovations

In the mid-1960s, China began working on genuinely home-designed combat jets, leading to the Shenyang J-8 debuting in 1979. A large twin-turbojet supersonic interceptor that could attain Mach 2.2 and resembled a cross between the MiG-21 and the larger Su-15, the J-8 lacked modern avionics and maneuverability. However, the succeeding J-8II variant (about 150 currently serving) improved on the former with an Israeli radar in a new pointy-nose cone, making it a fast but heavy weapons platform a bit like the F-4 Phantom. Around 150 are still operational.

The two-hundred-plus Xi’an JH-7 Flying Leopards, which entered service in 1992, are beefy two-seat naval-attack fighter-bombers that can lug up to twenty thousand pounds of missiles and have a top speed of Mach 1.75. Though they wouldn’t want to get in a dogfight with opposing contemporary fighters, they may not have to if they can capitalize on long-range antiship missiles.

The Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon, by contrast, is basically China’s F-16 Fighting Falcon, a highly maneuverable, lightweight multirole fighter leaning on fly-by-wire avionics to compensate for its aerodynamically unstable airframe. Currently dependent on Russian AL-31F turbofans, and coming several decades after the F-16 debuted, the J-10 seems may not seem earthshaking, but the J-10B model comes out of the box with twenty-first-century avionics such as advanced infrared search-and-track systems and a cutting-edge Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, which cannot be said for all F-16 types. However, the fleet of 250 J-10s has suffered several deadly accidents possibly related to difficulties in the fly-by-wire system. (The article is ignorant of China latest version of J-10, the most advanced J-10C with China’s vector-thrust WS-10 engine as described in my reblog of National Interest article “Could This 1 Chinese Fighter Jet Take on the Air Forces Best?” on December 15.)

The Flanker Comes to China—And Stays There

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a Russia starved for cash and no longer concerned about ideological disputes was happy to oblige when Beijing came knocking at the door asking to buy then state-of-the-art Sukhoi Su-27 fighters, a highly maneuverable twin-engine jet comparable to the F-15 Eagle with excellent range and payload. This proved a fateful decision: today a sprawling family of aircraft derived from the Su-27 form the core of China’s modern fighter force.

After importing the initial batch of Su-27s, Beijing purchased a license to domestically build their own copy, the Shenyang J-11—but to Russia’s dismay, began independently building more advanced models, the J-11B and D.

Moscow felt burned, but still sold seventy-six modernized ground- and naval-attack variants of the Flanker, the Su-30MKK and Su-30MK2 respectively, which parallel the F-15E Strike Eagle. Chinese designers also churned out their own derivative of the Su-30: the Shenyang J-16 Red Eagle, boasting an AESA radar, and the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, a carrier-based fighter based on a Russian Su-33 acquired from Ukraine. Around twenty now serve on China’s Type 001 aircraft carrier Liaoning. There’s even the J-16D, a jamming pod-equipped electronic-warfare fighter styled after the U.S. Navy’s EA-18 Growler.

The Chinese Sukhoi derivatives are theoretically on par with the fourth-generation fighters like the F-15 and F-16. However, they are saddled with domestic WS-10 turbofan engines, which have had terrible maintenance problems and difficulty producing enough thrust. Jet-engine tech remains the chief limitation of Chinese combat aircraft today (This reblogger’s note: the description is outdated as China has successfully developed a new improved version of WS-10 with vector thrust and there has been reports in Chinese on impvoement of the quality of WS-10.). Indeed, in 2016 China purchased twenty-four Su-35s, the most sophisticated and maneuverable variant of the Flanker so far—likely to obtain their AL-41F turbofans engines.

The Stealth Fighters

In a remarkably short timeframe, China developed two distinct stealth fighter designs. Twenty Chengdu J-20s entered PLAAF service in 2017. Unlike the F-22 Raptor, designed to be the ultimate air superiority fighter, or the single-engine multirole F-35 Lightning, the J-20 is a huge twin-engine beast optimized for speed, range and heavy weapons loads at the expense of maneuverability. (This reblogger note: it has been pointed out above that this statement is outdated as China has successfully developed world best WS-15 engine for J-20.)

The J-20 might be suitable for surprise raids on land or sea targets—though its larger rear-aspect radar cross section could be problematic—or to sneak past enemy fighters to take out vulnerable support tankers or AWACs radar planes. Special-mission stealth fighters make sense for a country that is only just getting into the business of operating such technically demanding aircraft.

Meanwhile, the smaller, privately developed Shenyang J-31 Gyrfalcon (or FC-31) is basically a twin-engine remodeling of the F-35 Lightning—quite possibly using schematics hacked off Lockheed computers. Chinese designers may have developed an aerodynamically superior airframe by ditching elements supporting vertical-takeoff-or-landing engines. However, the J-31 probably won’t boast the fancy sensors and data fusion capabilities of the Lightning.

Currently, the J-31 appears intended for service on upcoming Type 002 aircraft carriers, and for export as a cut-price F-35 alternative (This reblogger’s note: Ignorant speculation: China will deploy a carrier-borne version of J-20. See my post “J-20 not FC-31 Chosen as China’s Carrier-Borne Stealth Fighter” on August 30). However, while there are flying Gyrfalcon prototypes with Russian engines, the type may only begin production when sufficiently reliable Chinese WS-13 turbofans are perfected.

Towards the Future

Roughly 33 percent of the PLAAF and PLANAF’s combat aircraft are old second-generation fighters of limited combat value against peer opponents, save perhaps in swarming attacks. Another 28 percent include strategic bombers and more capable but dated third-generation designs. Finally, 38 percent are fourth-generation fighters that can theoretically hold their own against peers like the F-15 and F-16. Stealth fighters account for 1 percent. (This reblogger’s note: The figures are sadly outdated as the article is quite old.)

However, the technical capabilities of aircraft are just half the story; at least as important are training, organizational doctrine and supporting assets ranging from satellite recon to air-refueling tankers, ground-based radars and airborne command posts.

For example, China has the intel resources, aircraft and missiles to hunt aircraft carriers. However, the doctrine and experience to link these elements together to form a kill chain is no simple matter. A 2016 Rand report alleges Chinese aviation units are scrambling to reverse a lack of training under realistic conditions and develop experience in joint operations with ground and naval forces.

At any rate, Beijing seems in no rush to replace all its older jets with new ones. Major new acquisitions may wait until the Chinese aviation industry has smoothed out the kinks in its fourth-generation and stealth aircraft.

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.

Source: National Interest “HUGE: That’s the Only Word to Describe China’s Air Force”

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. This reblogger’s notes reflect some of my views on the article.


China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter Definitely Superior to F-22, F-35


National Interest asks the question in its article “China Thinks Its Stealth Fighters Can Beat the F-35” on December 14 “Are they right” to think so?.

The article cannot deny J-20’s advantages over F-22 as described in an article in China’s Shipboard Weapons magazine in having greater fuel capacity and endurance and superiority in electronics, situational awareness and data networking as F-22 is an old fighter that has not incorporated the newest technology as F-35 and J-20 do.

As for F-35. though it is newer and not inferior in electronics, situational awareness and data networking, J-20 is superior in supersonic cruise an super maneuverability.

National Interest’s article cannot deny that but pointed out as China had not succeeded in developing WS-15 engines for J-20, J-20 lacked advanced engines to give full play to J-20’s functions.

Sorry, the article first appeared in September and failed to be aware of China’s fast development in technology.

As pointed out in my post “At Least 3 Batches of World Most Powerful WS-15 Engine Delivered” on September 1, the delivery of 3 batches of WS-15 proved that China had succeeded in developing WS-15 and had three batch of the engines delivered for installation in J-20s. As WS-15 is much better than US best fighter jet engine F-135, it make J-20 much superior to F-35 in speed and maneuverability.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on National Interest’s article, full text of which can be viewed at https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/china-thinks-its-stealth-fighters-can-beat-f-35-104977.