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.

video

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.

Video

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.


America’s F-22 stealth fighter may be limited in Asia-Pacific conditions, China’s J-20 designer says


  • Aircraft has been sent to the region but was designed for combat in Europe, which could affect its capabilities, according to Yang Wei
  • China’s answer to the Raptor has yet to be put to the test in a real combat situation, military expert notes
F-22 Raptors fly above Syria in 2018. A top Chinese aircraft designer says the US stealth fighters were designed for combat in Europe and could face challenges in the Asia-Pacific. Photo: EPA-EFE / US Air Force

America’s F-22 Raptor stealth fighter was designed for combat in Europe but is now being used in the Asia-Pacific, according to a top Chinese aircraft designer, who says the different conditions will limit its capabilities there.

Yang Wei, general designer of China’s first stealth fighter the J-20, said the twin-engine F-22s 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.

“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 in a paper published in Chinese aeronautics journal Acta Aeronautica et Astronautica Sinica last month.

He said the F-22, a tactical fighter inspired by the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union, was designed for battle in Europe and could face similar problems now that it had been deployed in the Asia-Pacific.

The J-20, China’s first stealth fighter, went into service in 2017. Photo: Xinhua
The J-20, China’s first stealth fighter, went into service in 2017. Photo: Xinhua
Yang did not draw any

comparisons between America’s F-22 and China’s J-20

– both fifth-generation, twin-engine heavy fighter jets and of a similar size.

But military experts said his remarks indicated that the J-20 Weilong, or Powerful Dragon, was clearly seen as China’s answer to the F-22.
“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,” Song said.
Powerful Dragon v Raptor: how China’s J-20 stealth fighters compare with America’s F-22sPowerful Dragon v Raptor: how China’s J-20 stealth fighters compare with America’s F-22s

video

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

The F-22 has a comparatively shorter range – with a combat radius of 800km (497 miles), while the J-20’s large internal fuel tank can sustain a longer combat radius of 1,100km (684 miles).

But Beijing-based military expert Zhou Chenming noted that the J-20, which entered service in 2017, had yet to be put to the test in a real combat situation.

Andrei Chang, founder of influential military magazine Kanwa Asian Defence, said that in contrast, the F-22’s combat capabilities had been seen, most recently last year when the stealth fighters were sent to Qatar as tensions rose with Iran.
Washington’s hardened position on Beijing’s claims in South China Sea heightens US-China tensionsWashington’s hardened position on Beijing’s claims in South China Sea heightens US-China tensions

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Washington’s hardened position on Beijing’s claims in South China Sea heightens US-China tensions

“At the moment China has about 60 J-20s – just one-third of the total number of F-22s,” said the source, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

“Now the US has deployed hundreds of F-35s to the region, so it’s an even bigger threat to China,” he added.

With F-22s being deployed to the Asia-Pacific region – and as relations worsen with Washington, including over the

disputed South China Sea

– Beijing has stepped up development of its new stealth fighter. Mass production of the J-20B

began earlier this month

.

Source: SCMP “America’s F-22 stealth fighter may be limited in Asia-Pacific conditions, China’s J-20 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


Next gen fighter jet forthcoming in great power competition: J-20 chief designer


By Liu Xuanzun Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/27 19:33:07

A J-20 fighter performs at the 12th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition (Airshow China) in Zhuhai, south China’s Guangdong Province, Nov. 11, 2018. The air show closed on Sunday. (Xinhua)

A revolutionary, cognition-subverting next generation fighter jet, characterized by long-range, high capabilities in penetration, awareness, firepower and fast decision-making, is about to come into being amid great power competition, according to a recent paper by the chief designer of China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet.

Artificial intelligence is a key field to help pilots process vast information and make decisions in complicated battlefield environments, it said.

Amid great power competition and the commissioning of more and more fourth generation fighter jets (or fifth generation under US classification, which includes China’s J-20, US’ F-22 and F-35), there have been extensive discussions on the changes in types of warfare, and the development of post-fourth generation fighter jets, said Yang Wei of Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), in a paper published in Acta Aeronautica et Astronautica Sinica, a Chinese monthly journal on aeronautics, last month.

Yang is the chief designer of China’s first fourth generation fighter jet, the J-20.

In the paper, Yang said that in older generations of fighter jets, maneuverability used to be the deciding factor, but this concept is becoming outdated with the development of advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles with their beyond-visual-range attack capabilities.

Information has now become the deciding factor, as modern fighter jets focus on gaining more information with the help of AESA radars and data chains, while also reducing opponents’ ability to gain information, including using stealth technology and electronic countermeasures.

When aircraft can get more information with these advanced devices, pilots must have extensive knowledge, sharp analysis and sound decision-making to put them to use.

Yang said artificial intelligence will help pilots process the information, and help them become mission objective-oriented.

Each step in the original observe-orient-decide-act (OODA) loop in the air combat decision-making process will feature artificial intelligence’s assistance, the paper said. “Intelligence becoming the deciding factor” will be the essence of what Yang calls an OODA 3.0.

Citing foreign projects, Yang said that a future fighter jet will generally require a longer combat range, longer endurance, stronger stealth capability, a larger load of air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons, and the functionality to provide its pilot with easy-to-understand battlefield situation images and predictions. In an integrated system, the aircraft should be able to form a network, draw real-time integrated situational images, create multiple attack routes, and transmit target information across mission areas in real time.

Yang’s vision could indicate what China’s future fighter jet might be like, a Chinese military expert told the Global Times on Monday under the condition of anonymity.

Usually the Chinese military simultaneously equips a current generation of weapons, develops a next generation, and conducts pre-study on a further generation at the same time. So as J-20s are being commissioned into the Chinese Air Force, the next generation fighter jet must have already started development, the expert said.

China is eyeing to develop a next generation fighter jet by 2035 or earlier, which could feature laser, adaptive engines and the ability to command drones, reports in early 2019 quoted Wang Haifeng, another senior designer at AVIC who participated in the development of the J-20 and J-10 fighter jets, as saying.

Source: Global Times “Next gen fighter jet forthcoming in great power competition: J-20 chief designer”

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


IS CHINA DEVELOPING ULTRA-MANOEUVRABLE J-20 STEALTH FIGHTERS WITH THRUST VECTORING ENGINES?


SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2019 BY INDIAN DEFENCE NEWS

Or just another rumour?

by Sébastien Roblin

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 manoeuvres 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.

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 manoeuvres 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 power-plant: 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 (labelled 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-manoeuvrable flight characteristics, in which the pilot retains control of the aircraft during a stall, unlike for a conventional plane.

Aside from various test beds, 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 manoeuvres is obviously slick card for pilots to hold up their sleeve in a within-visual range dogfight, potentially allowing them to outmanoeuvre 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 manoeuvres drains away the jet’s energy in terms of speed and altitude that can be traded for speed. That means that a tight manoeuvre 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 duelled 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 manoeuvrability.

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 test bed 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.

A Chinese Thrust-Vector engine design

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 test beds 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 Defence News earlier in 2019 it’s more likely that the J-10 engine test beds 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 manoeuvrability, 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 counter narrative 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.

Source: Indian Defense News “IS CHINA DEVELOPING ULTRA-MANOEUVRABLE J-20 STEALTH FIGHTERS WITH THRUST VECTORING ENGINES?”

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