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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

China's stealth aircraft Chengdu J-20: What are they saying

By now you must have heard of the news, with varying degree of details, depending on your interest, of a new Fifth-Generation* Fighter Aircraft, being developed by the Chinese, having being spotted in the open, undergoing tests.

With no official word or information forthcoming from the Chinese, reports & articles appearing so far tend more towards speculation, be it one backed by experience & knowledge, than an informed analysis. One also can not say with any certainty if the aircraft that was spotted is a Technology Demonstrator, a platform for validating the various technologies that will eventually find its place into the actual prototype production aircraft that will be unveiled at a later date, or this itself is the first prototype of the production aircraft they have developed.

Going by reports of progress & capabilities of China's aeronautics industries & product development so far, I am inclined to believe it is the former.

China's latest fifth generation stealth fighter aircraft, Chengdu J-20 (J-XX)

Posting some related reports of interest & highlights of the articles.


"a true Chinese combat aircraft in this category is probably well over a decade away from readiness."

"The canard-delta configuration, coupled with canted vertical fins, is reminiscent of MiG's now cancelled 1.42 programme, and it would be interesting to know why the Chinese designers settled on this approach, rather than that of the Lockheed F-22 or Sukhoi T-50 platform."

"There are two rather large canards. I'm not sure that can be reconciled with a low-observable design. It looks like something that might have been designed in 1985"

"Size alone could suggest that the aircraft is not a fighter, but a bomber"

- Long March: China’s fifth-generation fighter is years away


"the J-20 may not match the all-aspect stealth of the F-22. There are two possible explanations for this: Either the aircraft seen here is the first step toward an operational design, or China’s requirements do not place as much stress on rear-aspect signatures."

"The engines are most likely members of the Russian Saturn AL-31F family, also used on the J-10. The production version will require yet-to-mature indigenous engines."

"One question that may go unanswered for a long time concerns the degree to which cyberespionage has aided the development of the J-20."

- China's J-20 Stealth Fighter In Taxi Tests


"....the Chinese are still seeking engines for a fourth-generation fighter from Russia, an indication that they are "still encountering problems" with development work toward the fifth-generation aircraft, the J-20."

"....the prototype's body appeared to borrow from the F-22 and other U.S. stealth aircraft, but they couldn't tell from the photographs how advanced it was in terms of avionics, composite materials or other key aspects of stealth technology"

"China was probably several years behind Russia, whose first stealth fighter, the Sukhoi T-50, made its first flight in January 2010, but that Beijing was catching up faster than expected"

"The Chinese prototype looks like it has "the potential to be a competitor with the F-22 and to be decisively superior to the F-35,"

- A Chinese Stealth Challenge?


"....still represent a major breakthrough in China's aircraft manufacturing capability"

"J-20s symbolize an end to the era in which China produced its military aircraft simply by copying foreign models"

"Large improvements are expected for the Chinese stealths in the next 10-15 years, and they will be neck-and-neck with, or even exceed, their U.S. and Russian counterparts once China develops more advanced power and radar systems"

- China reportedly developing stealth fighters


"Russia has supplied 32,000-pound thrust 117S engines for the J-20, which would be adequate for an aircraft in the 80,000 pound class - with perhaps lower supercruise performance and agility than an F-22, but with larger weapon bays and more fuel"

"The 117S comes with 3D vectoring and the engines appear widely enough spaced for that to work. This might mean that the V-tails could be locked out in normal cruising flight"

- China's Stealth Striker


"At first glance% this fighter has the potential to be competitive with the F-22 and to be an efficient F-35 killer"

- Photos of Chinese 5th-Generation Fighter Revealed

% emphasis is mine


"The J-20 offers one item from this list (#7).  I’m not convinced that the PLAAF has any other items from this list, although China seems to be making some progress with #9."

- J-20 vs. F-35, One Analyst’s Perspective


"First, it looks like a delta, not a lambda....That has some signature implications, with what looks like an almost unswept trailing edge, because edges scatter forward and backwards."

"Despite Russian concerns over China's reverse-engineering of its products, the lure of Chinese money and access to China's micro-electronics base is strong. And if Russia has permitted the export of the latest 117S engines for the J-20, it tells us a lot"

- J-20 - Denial Is Not An Option


"A lot of people have called J-10 program the "Apollo program" of China's aviation industry. I have a feeling that the J-20 program will become that way too"

"China's current civilian programs will help J-20 and vice versa"

- My thoughts on J-20


"just because the front end of the J-20 looks like an F-22 does not mean that it is an F-22 clone"

"A related source of error is an attempt to exploit the appearance of a new Chinese or Russian system to support a pre-existing belief system"

- How Not To Think About The J-20


"the airplane depicted in the snapshots apparently has many of the right characteristics for a fifth-generation stealth-fighter prototype: a chiseled front-section, triangular wings, all-moving tailplanes"

"Even if the photos are real and the J-20 exists as more than blueprints, there’s probably no cause for alarm"

"it could take a decade or more for the J-20 to appear in numbers that make any difference in the Pacific balance of power"

- Is This China’s First Stealth Fighter?


A Russian take on the J-20

The future of China's fifth-generation stealth fighter


"....the plane could be years away from being operational"

"despite the new sophisticated weapons systems being developed, Beijing has not demonstrated the ability to use their various weapons systems together in the kind of a sophisticated combined warfare that the U.S has mastered"

- Top Navy Officer: U.S. Misjudges China’s Arms Technology


"We're anticipating China to have a fifth-generation fighter ... operational right around 2018"

"there were a lot of unknowns about China's next-generation fighter, which would be a follow-up to nearly 500 fourth-generation fighters considered at a technical parity to older U.S. fighters"

- U.S. downplays Chinese stealth fighter status

Also posting the two reports/papers put out by APA. Though the data put out by them is worth pouring over, over and over if required, inferences they draw may not be all that it is. Emphasis on may. Read them for the data. For conclusions, discretion to be used.


Chengdu J-XX [J-20] Stealth Fighter Prototype: A Preliminary Assessment


What China's New J-20 Stealth Fighter Means for the F-35 JSF and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

* 4th generation, going by the Chinese nomenclature

A video of the J-20's undergoing high-speed taxi trials has found its way to Youtube.

China's stealth aircraft Chengdu J-20 undergoing high-speed taxi trials



New videos of the J-20 aircraft have made their appearance

The J20 4th/5th Generation Stealth Fighter A

China's newest stealth fighter aircraft, Chengdu J-20 (J-XX) undergoing tests on the runway

The J20 4th/5th Generation Stealth Fighter C

The second J20 4th/5th Generation Stealth Fighter cell phone video

J-20 canards actuation