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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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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
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:

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

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
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.

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