China’s fifth generation J20 fighter is not as stealthy as F22 an is still a few years from a competitive engine

The Center for Strategic and International Studies provides a detailed review of the capabilities of China J-20 stealth fighter.

The J-20 provides China with a variety of previously unavailable air combat options and enhances its capability to project power.

The J-20 is believed to be equipped with subsystems and field signature reduction technology that collectively meet the internationally-accepted classification of a “fifth-generation” aircraft. This refers to military aircraft featuring the general requirements of stealth technology, supersonic cruising speed, and highly integrated avionics. The J-20 is the first Chinese aircraft to fit this description, and it may serve as a critical asset for both the air force and the navy.

The J-20 contains two lateral bays for small air-to-air missiles and a larger bay under the fuselage for a variety of missiles and surface attack weapons. This is similar to the weapons bay configuration of the F-22, but different from the Russian T-50, which instead holds two small and two large weapons bays.

The J-20 is also slated to carry a variety of advanced electronic systems. This technology includes an active electronically scanned array, a chin mounted infrared/electro-optic search and track sensor, and a passive electro-optical detection system that will provide 360° spherical coverage around the aircraft. These systems are expected to be comparable to those found inside the F-35. Additionally, the J-20 is likely to field an advanced communications suite that will enable it to datalink with friendly platforms in service and platforms under development, such as the Divine Eagle airborne early warning drone.

The J-20 is currently fitted with Russian AL-31 engines, but China is developing a new, more powerful powerplant. Chen Xiangbao, an Aero Engine Corporation official, announced on March 13, 2017 that the J-20 will soon feature next-generation engines. Reports indicate that China plans to upgrade the J-20 in the coming years with the Chinese-made WS-15 engine, which would provide the J-20 with sustained supersonic travel (supercruise). This new engine may rival the cutting-edge Pratt & Whitney F119 engine currently used by the F-22. Compared to the older engines, the WS-15 would enable the J-20 to travel further while consuming less fuel and fly faster for longer periods of time. Other countries with advanced militaries, such as the U.S., Russia, and many European countries, all have fighter aircraft with supercruise capability.

Experts differ on the J-20’s flyaway cost – the marginal per-unit production cost, with estimates ranging from $30 million to up to $120 million. By comparison, the F-22 has a per-unit cost of $143 million while the T-50 is estimated to cost less than $100 million. Peter Singer notes that China is likely capable of mass-producing the J-20, but it remains unclear how many J-20s will be produced. Higher-end estimates indicate that several hundred J-20s will be produced to replace older fighters.

The Chengdu J-20
by CSIS
on Sketchfab

Subscribe on Google News