China’s J-20 stealth fighter should be made operational for some combat roles as early as the end of this year.
Andreas Rupprecht, an aviation expert and the author of several books about Chinese warplanes, wrote that he now [after the Zhuhai air show] expects the first J-20 squadron to be ready for combat with a dozen planes or so “around the year’s end or early 2017—much earlier than expected.”
China might have dozen or so J-20s on hand when the plane is finally war-ready. The USA already possess more than 180 F-22s and about 200 F-35s. F-22 production has ended, but the Pentagon wants to buy another 1,500 F-35s over the next 20 years.
The U.S. Air Force operates 20 B-2 stealth bombers and is currently developing the new B-21 stealth bomber to complement it. The Air Force and Navy are also beginning to draw up plans for two new warplane types to eventually follow the F-35.
China is developing another stealth fighter called the FC-31 that’s apparently cheaper and less capable than the J-20 is—and would be strictly for export, as Beijing reportedly does not want to sell the J-20 abroad.
There have also been rumors that China is working on a bigger J-20 model for bombing missions, plus a separate, vertical-landing fighter similar to the F-35B.
China’s wide-ranging efforts to build a stealthy air arm puts it firmly in second place after the United States when it comes to stealth technology. Third-place Russia is struggling to get its new twin-engine T-50 fighter to work—and to afford it. Japan has just begun experimenting with a prototype plane that could evolve into a front-line, radar-evading fighting sometime in the 2020s.
Japan is depending upon forty-two F-35s that were purchased from Lockheed. The first F-35A for Japan was presented at an official rollout ceremony on Sept. 23, 2016. This jet is the first of four F-35As assembled at the Fort Worth factory. The remaining 38 F-35As for the JASDF are being assembled at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility in Nagoya, Japan.
The J-20s at Zhuhai were still fitted with Russian-made AL-31 engines, rather than the WS-15 engines that Chinese engineers custom-designed for the J-20, but have since run into developmental problems.
With Russian engines, the first J-20 squadron could be “limited in its capabilities,” according to Rupprecht. Indeed, while Beijing might declare the J-20 to be officially combat-ready as early as this year, it’s possible the first squadron will mostly “explore operational tactics and procedures,” in Rupprecht’s estimation.
SOURCES- Daily Beast, Nikkei
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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