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Chinese J-20 stealth fighter
U.S. officials weigh in on the J-20

We reported last week that China is doing taxi trials of its new J-20 stealth fighter. The J-20 is being seen as a competitor for both the Lockheed F-22 Raptor air superiority fighter (which is going out of production after 187 units have been produced), and the more "workhorse" Lockheed F-35 Lightning II.

Despite the leaked pictures that clearly show that China has something quite advanced in its back pocket, U.S. officials are downplaying the significance of the J-20 in its current state according to Reuters. While the plane appears to be in finished form, it hasn't actually taken to the air like Russia's Sukhoi T-50 stealth fighter

"It's still not clear to me when it's going to become operational," said U.S. Vice Admiral David Dorsett who is director of naval intelligence. "Developing a stealth capability with a prototype and then integrating that into a combat environment is going to take some time." 

Dorsett believes that China is still a few years away from actually deploying its stealth fighter.

Another Pentagon official, Colonel Dave Lapan, was even more dismissive of the J-20, stating; "Our assessment of when China might have an operational fifth generation fighter puts it at some point in the future, close to the end of this decade."

Regardless of how long it will take China to field the J-20, it would likely be unwise to underestimate the capabilities of the Chinese military which is using its robust economy to bolster its military might.

The United States has a highly capable platform with the F-22, but its numbers are quite limited due to cost overruns. Likewise, the F-35 is a much more versatile platform (it will be replacing the F-16, F/A-18, AV-8B, and A-10), but it's development has been marred by setbacks and it too has been plagued with cost overruns.

It would be interesting to see how new T-50 and J-20 stack up to the latest and greatest from America, but hopefully we'll never have to find out in the real world.



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Interceptor
By NullSubroutine on 1/6/2011 8:18:38 PM , Rating: 4
The J-20 is closer in size to an interceptor than a fighter jet, however, it is probably a smart move. You want or necessarily need an agile fighter (though it can help) what you want is a platform that can stay in the skies for long periods of time, "see" far, and be able to launch weapons all while not being detected.

The reason the US is likely downplaying this is not because the J-20 isn't a viable fighter platform, but because the US is already moving into fighter drones. Like cruise missiles, fighter drones can be built cheaper, quicker, and can swarm an enemy defense system.




RE: Interceptor
By GulWestfale on 1/6/2011 8:28:52 PM , Rating: 5
no, the reason it's being downplayed, regardless of requirements, capabilities, or operational readiness is simple: "politics".


RE: Interceptor
By Smartless on 1/6/2011 8:50:38 PM , Rating: 5
Agreed, though the term can go both ways. China could be testing just to show that they are have the capabilities. Question is what are they aiming for, worldwide weapons dealers or future expansion?

I think one of our biggest advantages in this is our experience in war and weapons as well as our willingness to protect our soldiers. Meaning we will usually make stuff that works well and if they are a danger to our soldiers we address them. I don't think China cares as much.


RE: Interceptor
By Klinky1984 on 1/7/2011 12:45:29 AM , Rating: 5
I wonder if we really have that big of an advantage besides the ability to print money and give it to defense contractors to build price-gouged projects with. Also our commitment to protect our troops:

quote:
Soldiers in Iraq still buying their own body armor
http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2004-03-26...

quote:

Water reportedly sickened U.S. troops in Iraq
http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2008-03-09...

quote:

Translators dying by the dozens in Iraq
http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2005-05-21...


quote:

Army describes Patriot missile friendly fire problems
http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0703/072903gsn1.ht...


quote:

Substandard Conditions at VA Centers Noted
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/artic...


I think it's been shown that the military/.gov will put soldier's care in the backseat if it interferes with profit taking by contractors.

China has a ton of manpower which is conditioned to be faithful to the state & I am sure those in their defense sector are highly motivated. China also has a huge amount of raw resources, plus they hold the US by the balls as far as debt goes. China could definitely get much scarier if their technology continues to improve and they have the ability to implement greater economies of scale. Plus they probably don't have any or as much of the pork that goes into standard US defense contracts.


RE: Interceptor
By roykahn on 1/7/2011 6:02:47 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
Also our commitment to protect our troops


Yeah, and the commitment to "protect" foreign civilian populations :-P


RE: Interceptor
By WinstonSmith on 1/7/2011 10:34:02 AM , Rating: 3
"Yeah, and the commitment to "protect" foreign civilian populations"

Only the populations in countries that have some great (possibly just imaginary) geopolitical significance, of course, not for any, real moral reasons as is always claimed to fool the ignorant (majority).


RE: Interceptor
By roykahn on 1/9/2011 1:15:26 AM , Rating: 3
But sir, are you suggesting that they're not just spreading democracy and engaging in humanitarian intervention?


RE: Interceptor
By silverblue on 1/7/2011 3:02:56 PM , Rating: 2
Don't forget foreign troops. :P


RE: Interceptor
By stlrenegade on 1/7/2011 12:44:15 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
China also has a huge amount of raw resources, plus they hold the US by the balls as far as debt goes.


China holds about 21% of our debt. Not ball-grabbing to me.


RE: Interceptor
By Harinezumi on 1/7/2011 1:15:45 PM , Rating: 2
Possession of 21% of our debt presents them our balls on a silver platter.


RE: Interceptor
By Laereom on 1/7/2011 8:57:21 PM , Rating: 2
Owe the bank a million dollars, and the bank owns you.

Owe the bank a billion dollars, and you own the bank.

For the next several years at least, China has a lot more to lose from pulling that trigger than we do. Of course, how things develop in those years is anyone's guess...


RE: Interceptor
By lyeoh on 1/13/2011 1:07:45 PM , Rating: 1
Not quite the same thing.

The US owes China trillions payable in US dollars. Guess who in the world has the right to create as much US dollars as they deem necessary?

The US has already created trillions since 2008 (lending/borrowing money that doesn't exist yet is still the same thing as creating). Nobody seems to care as long as you give it a fancy name like "Quantitative Easing". It's the Petrodollar after all.

So if China insists, the US can repay. But China knows if they do it wrong, what they get would be worth less or even worthless.


RE: Interceptor
By eskimospy on 1/8/2011 11:09:09 AM , Rating: 2
China does not own 21% of our debt, it's more like about 10-12%.


RE: Interceptor
By cruisin3style on 1/8/2011 2:00:41 PM , Rating: 2
Well, China holds ~21% of our debt that is held by foreign countries. They have slightly more than Japan according to official Treasury numbers.

But as far as total debt goes, China holds about 6.5%


RE: Interceptor
By kaosstar on 1/12/2011 8:55:11 PM , Rating: 2
These things you list are mostly referring to veterans, who are now worthless to the military, or infantry, who merely serve as cannon fodder. Obviously, the US doesn't protect all of its soldiers well, but the valuable ones, like pilots, it certainly does.


RE: Interceptor
By snakeInTheGrass on 1/7/2011 3:09:12 PM , Rating: 4
I agree that China doesn't care, but I'm not so sure I'd label our way as an advantage, assuming they can put together enough missiles / planes to challenge carrier/air superiority. Sure, we have more expensive stuff that is better when it's working out in the field... like the German WWII tanks were better than a Sherman, though outnumbered and in the shop too much. (Tommy Cooker / Ronson - think the U.S. top priority was our lives or lots of tanks?)

If China doesn't care about their soldiers, they can run off many more [tanks/planes/guns/...] and overwhelm whatever we have. The drones we're using are friggin' crazy expensive for the most part, let alone the aircraft and other vehicles.

China has a lot of military age males they can afford to lose, and maybe more frighteningly, thanks to their killing of baby girls to have boys instead, they have a lot of young males who aren't going to find spouses (which will lead to a lot of social unrest) and which they are probably going to want to lose. Anyone have any ideas how to cut down on the numbers of 'extra' unhappy guys in their society? How does a war over Taiwan or oil in the China Sea sound? Over minerals in Africa? For our sake I hope they decide they and India need reductions, as awful as that is to think.


RE: Interceptor
By geddarkstorm on 1/7/2011 3:12:36 PM , Rating: 2
All very true points.

Why does this sound like the lead up to the Fallout series, minus the stuck in the 50's bit?


RE: Interceptor
By snakeInTheGrass on 1/7/2011 3:17:28 PM , Rating: 2
Because cool games will be based on it assuming enough infrastructure survives? ;)


RE: Interceptor
By bennyg on 1/7/2011 7:14:38 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think China can afford at all to lose any working-age males. They have a looming issue regarding demographic shift to ageing population many times worse than the West because we haven't had laws that have outright restricted population growth, and have led to sex favoritism.

Their only resource advantage is their population. And I can very realistically see that advantage gone by 2040 by the way they're mishandling it. Their regulation of reproduction is primitive in the extreme.


RE: Interceptor
By Jerricho24 on 1/10/2011 9:42:26 AM , Rating: 2
primitive and effective much like the Anglo's that crushed early Britain, the only ever sucssesful invasion and genoside factualy recorded in history, the Invasion of Native north america or australia don't count cos they are still in affect.
The F22 IMHO is a white ellephant to a point, as has been pointed out they are a publisity stunt. the T32 and T35 tanks of WWII and the British Hurricane are shining exanbles how cheap and easy to repair wins over technicaly advanced much like a gorila war wins over a conventional slug fest.
despite China having a large share of US debt, it maybe wise to remember that Iraq was not just about Oil, The Debt for all the Jets and tanks and arms that had been sold to Sadam to aid the war on Iran had not been paid, the US govenment couldn't let sadam go on thumbing his nose at that debt. Countries are not banks and don't have to work within any legal framework or regulation if china wants it's money back and deside to come and get it it will not be F22's that stop them! and many a chinaman would maybe like a nice american wife? if you can think of a more succsesful Social planning scheme I would be interested to hear it cos swine flu was a fail.


RE: Interceptor
By lolmuly on 1/11/2011 2:17:50 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
genoside

quote:
australia don't count

quote:
cos

quote:
still in affect

quote:
ellephant

quote:
point, as has been

quote:
publisity

quote:
are shining exanbles how

quote:
technicaly

quote:
gorila

quote:
govenment

quote:
deside

quote:
get it it will

quote:
them! and many

quote:
succsesful

quote:
cos


I can forgive a couple of misspellings, punctuation issues, and sometimes a run on sentence. This is an informal discussion, however you sir are a plague upon the English language.


RE: Interceptor
By geddarkstorm on 1/7/2011 3:11:23 PM , Rating: 2
Their building and soon to be fielding of the super carrier killer missile, as well as how they have been buying up carriers left and right, added to how they are backing North Korea's irrationality on purpose... does suggest they are gearing for expansion, not weapons dealing.


RE: Interceptor
By sorry dog on 1/6/2011 8:52:51 PM , Rating: 3
I dunno about the politics part. I would think the opposite as supporters of the JSF, the F136 program, and many other weapons programs would use this as an example of justification for continued growth in spending for said programs.

I think are downplaying just because we have a big ego about our big guns. Which they are probably right about the latter part of the decade for operation...BUT...
notice how forward fuselage looks rather JSF like?

I sure we could keep helping their developement process along by not cracking down on the espionage...


RE: Interceptor
By CloudFire on 1/6/2011 9:06:23 PM , Rating: 5
I don't think it's necessarily about ego persay. It's simple, imo really, what military personnel would go out and opening admit that a foreign nation's aircraft is actually a threat? No one would, it's simple as that. Behind the scenes, they are more aware of the situation and is probably accessing the situation very carefully at this moment.


RE: Interceptor
By gamerk2 on 1/7/2011 8:05:09 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I think are downplaying just because we have a big ego about our big guns. Which they are probably right about the latter part of the decade for operation...BUT...
notice how forward fuselage looks rather JSF like?


Its generally accepted that China knows everything we know, and their only barrier is how long the translation of source material takes. Besides, look at the Russian T-50; looks a lot like a F-22 with some JSF thrown in...


RE: Interceptor
By TheDoc9 on 1/6/2011 9:48:05 PM , Rating: 1
I'd say cut his estimate in half (10 years to 5). The chinese can copy things quite quickly. In this case they're copying the F-22. Now would you want to fly in their finished product is another question.


RE: Interceptor
By JackPack on 1/6/2011 10:03:45 PM , Rating: 3
Sure, they've copied the F-22. I guess if you define the F-22 as a plane with two wings and a singe seat, then yes, the J-20 is a copy.

Oh wait, neither the shape of the wings, the intakes, nor the length or width of the plane look anything like the F-22.


RE: Interceptor
By Motoman on 1/6/2011 11:25:31 PM , Rating: 2
The Russians copied an American bomber in WWII. In this case, the Chinese have copied nothing.


RE: Interceptor
By Duwelon on 1/7/2011 12:30:00 AM , Rating: 2
Either get your eyes checked or put the picture of the WW2 Mustang down and look at the pic in the article. It's an exact copy of the F22 design, just with different dimensions of the individual pieces, at least from the front.


RE: Interceptor
By JackPack on 1/7/2011 1:48:11 AM , Rating: 2
I guess when you play with Lego so much, you don't realize that "different dimensions of the individual pieces" on an airplane can mean the difference between flying and falling out of the sky.

Somehow, you also missed the two large control surfaces in front of the main wing -- canards -- that have been deflected upwards in the pic.


RE: Interceptor
By ekv on 1/7/2011 2:10:10 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
that have been deflected upwards in the pic.
After having collected F22 pictures for the last couple years, I believe what you're looking at are the elevators (control surfaces). I haven't seen that many J20 pic's, though I've seen one diagram that has canards [they looked fixed, unlike the Rafale Fighter]. The similarities are uncanny, nevertheless.


RE: Interceptor
By Solandri on 1/7/2011 4:25:10 AM , Rating: 2
They're definitely canards. You can see them in front of the main wing in this pic:

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_ej5kQwZWlzM/TRybW9Q3DRI/...

And in this large version of the pic in question, you can see that it's definitely the canards which have pitched up.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_ej5kQwZWlzM/TRyavDP4TlI/...

Of course in a canard design, they pretty much take the place of the elevators. Someone who follows this stuff more closely will have to chime in, but I thought the F22 decided not to go with canards for pilot visibility, and instead used vectored thrust for added pitch maneuverability? This could be an indication that the Chinese haven't quite licked the complexities of vectored thrust, and are instead relying on (rather large) canards for increased pitch moment to enhance maneuverability.

The exhaust nozzles don't look like they'd be vectored either, unless they're a newfangled 3-axis type, which I'd be very surprised if the Chinese had managed to develop so quickly.


RE: Interceptor
By v9s on 1/7/2011 9:46:24 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
The exhaust nozzles don't look like they'd be vectored either, unless they're a newfangled 3-axis type, which I'd be very surprised if the Chinese had managed to develop so quickly.


J-20 is powered by two Russian NPO Saturn 117S afterburning turbofan engines with 3d vectoring nozzles. These are engines that are also used in the Sukhoi T-50 & Su-35S fighters.

The NPO Saturn 117S will power the Chengdu J-20 until China can fully develop the WS-15 afterburning turbofan engine - which will also feature 3d vectoring nozzles.


RE: Interceptor
By v9s on 1/7/2011 9:58:33 AM , Rating: 2
That's the first prototype. The second one uses the AL31


RE: Interceptor
By zmatt on 1/7/2011 3:01:50 PM , Rating: 2
You sir don't understand how aircraft work. just because one superficially resembles another does not imply that they are anything alike. That's like claiming a learjet is similar to a gulfstream 550. Only the Gulfstream is bigger and cost much more, they are essentially the same right? No. That Chinese prototype is much larger than the F-22. So large that it's role as an air superiority fighter is very much in doubt. If we assume that it uses internal weapons bay like the F-22 then it would be a fair assessment to either consider it a fighter/bomber or an interceptor. Fighter bombers have the capability to carry ground munitions such as bombs which are not as compact as air to air missiles, and interceptors tend to be large for the fuel capacity and powerful engines. Neither have a primary role in air superiority and would not be a very good match against a dedicated air superiority fighter.


RE: Interceptor
By catavalon21 on 1/7/2011 9:23:49 PM , Rating: 2
Looks like there is also some inspiration from the YF-23.

http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/shared/media/phot...


RE: Interceptor
By Thelookingglass on 1/6/2011 10:05:10 PM , Rating: 2
They downplay its practicality because by the time its operational drones will be the end all be all.

Drones have so many advantages over manned planes
- Smaller, Cheaper, Less complex.
- Mass producible. At some point they will be at least.
- No formal pilot. Which means far cheaper training and no "deaths".
- Far more maneuverable. Pilots can pull ~9Gs for a short moment. Drones could pull 40+ sustained.


RE: Interceptor
By JackPack on 1/6/2011 10:35:03 PM , Rating: 2
Be all and end all?

Four letters: ASAT

Without communications satellites, those things are dead sticks. AI is nowhere advanced enough in the near future to trust a $60 million UCAV to complete its mission without human intervention.


RE: Interceptor
By ekv on 1/7/2011 2:15:18 AM , Rating: 2
"ASAT"

China has been testing those too. American technology has helped a little too much with their ability to launch rockets 8(


RE: Interceptor
By indignation on 1/7/11, Rating: -1
RE: Interceptor
By rcc on 1/7/2011 12:55:46 PM , Rating: 1
More like 1.3 - 1.5 billion. But nice try.

Although there is certainly some validity in their classic quantity response to threats.


RE: Interceptor
By Wiggy Mcshades on 1/7/2011 4:09:40 PM , Rating: 1
Look into how hard it is to be a fight pilot, even if china could make a never ending number of jets they wouldn't be able to train pilots fast enough or in great enough numbers. You need to have 20/20 vision uncorrected, the percentage of people with that is actually declining. Also they cant just throw together poor quality jets, they wouldn't fly. At the speeds fighter jets travel at any small quality issue is going to result in the jet going down or breaking up mid flight.


RE: Interceptor
By snakeInTheGrass on 1/7/2011 3:16:25 PM , Rating: 3
Given the access the Chinese have to our networks, technology, and the production of weapons to destroy our communications infrastructure, it would be interesting to see how well remote control planes work. Something tells me that jamming/stopping that drone control signal (uh, or even just viewing it themselves if the U.S. drone brilliance in Iraq is an indicator) may be an issue for us.

And, unless I'm missing something, if drones do turn out to be the best answer, China now has the manufacturing capability (thanks Boeing/US govt./tech companies?) to churn those out cheaper than we can too. And maybe even control over some of the minerals needed.


RE: Interceptor
By Wiggy Mcshades on 1/7/2011 4:03:07 PM , Rating: 2
The issue you might be overlooking with thinking the US can rely on drones is wireless communications are impossible to completely secure. Remember when the taliban were intercepting the drone's video feed with a laptop and some 20 dollar software? Even though the link to the drone is now more secure than in the past, I would imagine most countries are already working on ways to intercept or interrupt that wireless link. I for one don't think relying on something that can get jacked mid mission and sent back at us is a great approach. I hate to be the pessimist, but the concept that is always being repeated with computers of any kind is that if you want in it's only a matter of time and resources available.


RE: Interceptor
By fteoath64 on 1/7/2011 10:52:41 PM , Rating: 2
"Like cruise missiles, fighter drones can be built cheaper, quicker, and can swarm an enemy defense system."

Well, it would be real scary if China has thousands of J20s and uses the "swarm" effect on an enemy. US has over a hundred F22s, if you are outnumbered, your single superiority will not be enough because your weapons and fuel are limited.



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