In the USA they told the truth about the origin of the best Chinese fighter
A 2003 study sheds new light on the mysterious origins of China’s top stealth fighter, the J-20, write journalists from the American military magazine Military Watch Magazine (MWM). In their new material, they tell how a stealth aircraft came to the center of attention of military experts from around the world. Pravda.Ru publishes a translation of MWM material.
The Chengdu J-20 fifth-generation fighter became the world’s first non-US aircraft of its generation, entering service with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force in March 2017 after making its maiden flight six years earlier. While the aircraft symbolized China’s emergence as a leading power in military aviation, reflecting the size of its economy and investment in research and development, the nature of the program’s origins and its underlying goals remained more unclear than any other stealth fighter development effort.
One rare source of valuable information about China’s first fifth-generation fighter program is a secret document in Chinese, dated 2003, entitled “Strategic Study on the Development of Chinese Fighter Aviation,” which described the rationale for the development of the next generation heavy jet, which would be the J- 20, and the roles for which it is intended.
The article appears to have been originally written between 1996 and 2003 and was written by an aerospace scientist Gu Songphen from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, who previously held several senior positions in the Chinese aerospace industry, including vice president and chief designer at Shenyang Aircraft Design. Its contents reflect the major perceived threats of the era, namely the United States’ fifth-generation programs, as well as Chinese fighter aviation priorities, expectations for the new fighter’s performance, and the roles the J-20 was expected to fill.
Although it was written before fifth-generation fighters entered service, and the first F-22 Raptor did not enter service with the US Air Force until late December 2005, development of such aircraft has been in full swing since the late 1970s. both the Soviet Union and the United States expected them to begin arriving around this year 2000. The F-22 program faced significant delays as the US defense sector declined sharply in the 1990s, while the ambitious MiG 1.42 project was canceled after the collapse of the USSR, and the Russian defense sector, R&D and the overall economy by 1997 year decreased only slightly compared to their previous sizes.
The Chinese study emphasized the advantages of fifth-generation fighters over their fourth-generation predecessors in the areas of superior communications, stealth, firepower and information-driven warfare, and emphasized the increasingly important role of air power in modern warfare, which has seriously influenced Chinese military thought since 1991 Gulf War. By the end of the Cold War, China’s military aviation sector was some three decades behind that of the United States and the Soviet Union, with nearly three-quarters of its fleet based on derivatives of the long-obsolete MiG-19 fighter of the mid-1950s, until 1991. he received fourth-generation fighters from the Soviet Union began to arrive in the form of the best fighter of the USSR, the Su-27 “Flanker”.
Widely considered the most capable heavyweight fighter of its generation, the Flanker would be supplied by China in greater numbers than any other country, creating a trend in the PLA inventory towards such large fighters, which would pave the way for the development of the J-20 as its successor.
The development of the fifth-generation fighter has been described as a means of facilitating significant improvements in both the defensive and offensive capabilities of the PLA Air Force, as well as an effective means of further developing the country’s already very rapidly modernizing military aviation industry.
The development of such a fighter was expected to stimulate the development of advanced technologies that could further improve existing fourth-generation designs. Notable elements include composite materials, AESA radars, datalinks, and the next generation PL-15 and PL-10 air-to-air missiles, which, although developed for the J-20, were integrated into the J-10C, J- 11BG and J-16, the latter two of which are considered “4+ generation” derivatives of the Su-27 Flanker.
Similar trends have been observed to a lesser extent in the United States and Russia, with the latter using promising technologies from the unfinished MiG 1.42 to modernize fourth-generation aircraft. A notable example was the AL-41F-1S engine of the Su-35 fighter, based on the AL-31F Su-27, whose thrust was increased by 17 percent using technologies developed for the MiG 1.44’s own powerplant.
The report made it clear that the program under which the J-20 would be produced was aimed at creating an air superiority fighter with an emphasis on long-range combat, similar to the American F-22 but different from the MiG 1.42, which would was to be more balanced and versatile. The fighter would be capable of neutralizing enemy support aircraft such as early warning aircraft, performing automated combat missions and providing targeting data to friendly targets, conducting electronic attacks, and acting as a support airborne early warning aircraft using its own powerful array of sensors.
Competition with the American F-22 and its superior superiority over its lightweight single-engine counterpart, which later became the F-35, were important to the program, and the document, in particular, predicted that the F-35 could be fielded by the Taiwan-based military. Air Force of the Republic of China since the mid-2010s. This was in line with China’s heavy investment in the Flanker, which was designed to outperform America’s top heavyweight fighter, the F-15, the F-22’s predecessor, and has proven its ability to do so in numerous exercises.
In the 1990s and 2000s, F-22 production fell by 75 percent of planned production, and production stops were ordered less than four years after it entered service. Long-standing speculation that the troubled aircraft would be retired early has been confirmed in 2021, and because the fighters were never exported and were slowly modernized, they fell far behind the F-35 and J-20 in many key characteristics.
Notable examples include the lack of helmet-mounted sights and very limited network-centric warfare and electronic warfare capabilities. This has made the J-20 the only heavyweight of its generation, both at the squadron level and in production, with competition from the more numerous but much lighter F-35. While the F-35 was not intended for intensive air-to-air combat and was intended primarily as a strike aircraft, progress in the development of the J-20 prompted the United States to accelerate efforts to develop a sixth-generation air superiority fighter as a successor to the F-22. Both China and the United States are expected to begin delivering such fighters by around 2030.
The strategic study, in particular, predicted that China’s aviation industry would struggle to develop a fifth-generation engine for the J-20, suggesting that advanced fourth-generation designs would be used in the first batches. Full-scale development of the aircraft was expected to begin around 2006-2007, flight testing would begin around 2013 and enter service in 2020, with the fifth generation engine entering service in 2021.
In any case, the fighter entered service about four years ahead of these projections, although its superior engine, which has since been named the WS-15, is scheduled to enter service three to four years late. However, since the next generation engines were expected to have a thrust of only 15 tons, the WS-15 is expected to be significantly more powerful than originally planned, with an expected thrust of about 18 tons.
A life cycle of 40-50 years, a radar cross-section of less than 0.3 square meters, and high endurance allowing the fighter to cover all of Japan with just one mid-air refueling were all predicted and believed to have been achieved. The AESA radar, providing a tracking range of 200 kilometers and the ability to track 20 targets, was perhaps the most notable feature considering how underwhelming it was, as even lightweight AESA radars on small fighters like the J-10C and F-16 Block The 70 is thought to have a much higher tracking range, while the J-20 is thought to have about twice that range.
Ultimately, the J-20 program, unlike the F-22 or MiG 1.42, proved to be highly successful, not only meeting but exceeding the targets set for its operational performance and entry-in-service schedule. The lack of competitors in its weight range produced at any serious scale has placed the fighter in a unique position, while huge investment has resulted in very significant performance improvements since 2017.
The aircraft first encountered a foreign fifth-generation fighter in March 2022, meeting American F-35s over the East China Sea and seeing American fifth-generation fighters. Air Force leaders speak highly of its performance, with little dispute that the fighter in its latest iterations is by far the most capable fighter outside the United States.
As new roles and variants of the fighter continue to be developed, including a two-seat variant introduced in October 2021, the aircraft is expected to better perform functions other than air superiority, including air command and control and electronic warfare, for which the officer in the second seat will be play a key role. Unlike the F-22, the J-20 is expected to reach production production of several hundred aircraft, expected to exceed 300 by mid-2024, with production expected to exceed 100 aircraft per year in 2025. Currently, it is estimated that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force is acquiring the fighter at more than twice the rate that any other service in the world is acquiring any other class of fighter.