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J-20 takes flight
Further ahead indeed...

Numerous pictures of the Chinese Chengdu J-20 Black Eagle stealth fighter have surfaced online over the last few weeks. The aircraft has been seen conducting taxi tests at the southwest China Plant 132 facility. Plant 132 is the designation for Chengdu Aircraft reports Defense News.

After government officials initially dismissed the J-20, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates admitted recently that the Chinese "may be somewhat further along" than was previously believed. As Gates is in China for talks with the Chinese government a new report comes out that the J-20 made its first flight. The maiden flight had reportedly been set for January 7, but poor weather forced the flight to be cancelled. 

According to Chinese media, the chase aircraft on the test flight was a Chengdu J-10S Vigorous Dragon fighter. Defense News reports that the test flight will surprise some analysts who though the aircraft wasn’t ready for flight. The maiden flight of the J-20 lasted 18 minutes and was conducted on January 11.

The first flight of the aircraft may be used as a bargaining chip by Taiwan to urge the U.S. to release 66 newer F-16C/D fighters that were requested. The aircraft have been on hold since 2006 due to Chinese pressure on the U.S. to not offer more military aid to Taiwan.

Chinese Minister for National Defense Gen. Liang Guanglie said, "On that, China's position has been clear and consistent - we are against it." He also said, "Because United States arms sales to Taiwan seriously damaged China's core interests and we do not want to see that happen again, neither do we hope that the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan will again and further disrupt our bilateral and military-to-military relationship."

The F-16 aircraft that Taiwan wants aren’t likely to be approved by the U.S., but upgrades for the F16A/B fighters Taiwan may get a green light.

Updated 1/12/2011 @ 7:35am EST

Video has been posted of the J-20's first flight. The taxi/liftoff occurs around the 3:06 mark.

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Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By Amiga500 on 1/11/2011 12:21:21 PM , Rating: 5
I see the web is littered with people lining up to declare this thing a fighter.

Something that size is never meant for close combat. The wing area is not big enough (and its got too much 1/4 chord sweep), the T/W ratio probably will not be high enough and basic inertia from that size is something that is very hard to overcome.

IMO, people should start thinking F-111, or mini-Tu-22M. Especially considering what the design Mach number of that thing is (going by the Mach cone).

Intercepting a supersonic penetrator with low radar signature will be very difficult in an F/A-18 or F-35; the speed of those two platforms coupled with a reduced reaction time simply makes getting to the J-20 difficult. The F-22, EF-T, Rafale and F-15 should both have a much better chance of forming a successful air defense against this, the F-16 and JAS-39 somewhere in between.

The J-20 may be many things; I'm quietly confident that an air superiority fighter is not one of them.

By MrTeal on 1/11/2011 12:43:12 PM , Rating: 5
You have to keep in mind who most of these web stories are tailored to. Small and looks like a fighter? It's a fighter. Really big? It's a bomber. Funky angles and painted black? Add "stealth-" to the front of it. Maybe it's not the best reporting, but it's meant for the biggest audience possible.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By mmp121 on 1/11/2011 12:45:27 PM , Rating: 2
Some fighter aircraft it turned out to be. It was always a bomber. J-20 looks the same way, especially with its large frame.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By mmp121 on 1/11/2011 12:47:51 PM , Rating: 2
Oops, something happened, I meant to append 'This could be their version of the US F-117A...'

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By gamerk2 on 1/11/2011 12:51:06 PM , Rating: 2
The SU-27, F-15, and F-14, not the mention the F-4 were large too, and at one point or another were air superiority fighters. And those didn't have the benfit of making extensive use of synthetic materials to cut down weight.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By zmatt on 1/11/2011 1:03:31 PM , Rating: 2
This thing is larger than all of those, it pretty obvious looking at the proportion of the cockpit to the rest of the plane.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By petpeeve on 1/11/2011 3:50:41 PM , Rating: 5
looking at the proportion of the cockpit to the rest of the plane

Resisting urge to make joke about how small their pilots would be..

By snakeInTheGrass on 1/13/2011 9:08:09 PM , Rating: 2
Wow, good job. I know I would have given in and said something like "Given that the pilots are 1/2 the size, of course the cockpit looks small."

And then I would have resisted making even more inappropriate comments about size as well as something related to driving...

Way to go, petpeeve, look what you've done now! ;)

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By nafhan on 1/11/2011 1:12:13 PM , Rating: 3
That's what I was thinking, too. It's actually very similar in length and width but probably a little heavier than the Su-35. The Su-35 uses the Saturn 117S engine that some are speculating the J-20 is currently using.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By Bigginz on 1/11/2011 11:45:56 PM , Rating: 2
3 points

A: It's the F/A-22 not the F-22. The USAF has spent a lot of time, effort and money adapting this plane to the attack role. That's part of the reason it has taken so long to develop, produce and enter service. It was originally intended for the air superiority role just like the F-15, F-16 and F-14. At some point the USAF realized the F-22 might get cancelled altogether if they didn't adapt it for the attack role. When was the last time an F-15, F-16, F-14 or F/A-18 shot down an enemy airplane? 1991 (maybe 2003). When was the last time any of those jets dropped a bomb or fired an AG missile? Last month (probably last week).

B: It looks like a F/A-22 so people are going to assume it's in the same class as the F/A-22. Many more people would be complaining the US military doesn't know how to classify airplanes. The J-10 is a fighter and so is the J-20.

C: The F/A-22 and PAK-FA are supposed to be "stealth" fighters. And that means carrying weapons in internal bays. You must have a larger plane to carry missiles and bombs internally. The J-20 has canards and will probably have thrust vectoring in the future. This will make it more manueverable in a dog fight.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By kextyn on 1/12/2011 4:57:16 AM , Rating: 2
It IS the F-22. At one point in time they had called it the F/A-22 but since 2005 it has been known as the F-22. The F-22 IS an air superiority fighter... when was the last time you saw one doing bombing/strafing runs in the Middle East? Go ahead and keep calling it the F/A-22 if you want but you're just going to look stupid.

By Amiga500 on 1/12/2011 7:11:58 AM , Rating: 3
I believe they actually ended up calling it the F-22A.

Yeah, sensible I know.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By Bigginz on 1/12/2011 11:48:02 AM , Rating: 2
Ok, you're right about the name changing back to F-22. I guess the "F/A" designation was too confusing. I often call the Hornet the F-18 instead of the F/A-18. However, the F-22 will be used for ground attack.

The F-15C remains the only fighter in the U.S. arsenal designed exclusively for air-to-air combat. The F-22 will be multi-role.

Air Force article from 2007 about the F-22 dropping small diameter bombs and JDAMs.

Pic of F-22 dropping JDAM.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By Mudhen6 on 1/12/2011 11:45:53 PM , Rating: 2
You're right in that the F-22 is wired to carry bombs. You're wrong in thinking they actually will - nobody is going to risk a $182 million stealth fighter on a strafing run.

The whole "F/A-22" designation was an attempt by the USAF to buy more Raptors, by showing its critics that it's not just a Cold War relic dedicated to a role that no air force in the world is going to challenge.

For the record, USAF F-15Cs are capable of employing bombs as well - the ability to carry bombs is irrelevant. For a true measure of what the USAF is actually uses a particular fighter unit for, look at its training curriculum. Air-to-air combat is an extremely perishable skill, and air-to-air pilots tend to be trained only in air-to-air, all the time, in the USAF. For example, given two units of multi-role F-16Cs, it's more effective to dedicate training of one unit to air-to-air and one to air-to-ground rather than have both units do a mix a -air and -ground.

The training curriculum of F-15C and F-22 pilots reflect this mentality. These pilots spend 99% of their training for air-to-air.

By Calin on 1/13/2011 3:23:16 AM , Rating: 2
They might use insertion teams to "laser paint" high priority targets (like active SAM sites) and F-22A to launch laser guided bombs from an altitude of 20 km. Beats calling a real bomber (B-52, B-2) 20 hours in advance for the strike, and make him hover for hours until the target is ready.
And for effective "strafing runs" you need very slow speed and very good manoeuvrability - and F-22A has only manoeuvrability, not slow speed.

By Bigginz on 1/13/2011 11:30:43 AM , Rating: 2
Good to know the F-22 will focus on air-to-air combat. Maybe 1 day out of the year they will drop some bombs. Or get some practice on the simulator.

I think the only planes that do strafing runs are the A-10 and AC-130. On any other plane it's a last resort. The pilot would have to be desperate. Going low, slow and in a straight line is a great way to get shot down.

Also, I'm wondering what the Air Force will do without a medium range tactical bomber. The F-15E has a ferry range of 2,400 miles. F-22 = 2,000 miles. F-35 = 1,380 miles. I guess they'll have to rely on midair refueling. If it's in hostile territory they'll have to use cruise missiles or long range UAV's.

By skyyspam on 1/12/2011 8:31:51 AM , Rating: 2
The F-15 (minus the E model) is STILL an air superiority model. And, it does it damned well even today.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By nafhan on 1/11/2011 1:00:24 PM , Rating: 2
Lately it seems like new Chinese weapons are often developed around exploiting "chinks" in the US military's armor. A fast stealthy interceptor would be good at attacking things like aircraft carriers and AWACS. In other words, taking out our ability to effectively wage war at a distance, and keeping us out of their back yard.
Anyway, calling it a fighter isn't that big of a stretch. You mentioned the F-111 in your post... That's primarily a strike aircraft, but it's got the F designation. More importantly, even if it's not a dog fighter it's likely that it could still be effective at medium and beyond visual range fighting.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By zixin on 1/11/2011 1:18:57 PM , Rating: 4
What do you expect? When you build a new military force, you want it to exceed the currently best. And that would be the US military.

By nafhan on 1/11/2011 3:03:06 PM , Rating: 4
Actually, I didn't mean exceed.
I was meaning that they are concentrating their new weapons systems in areas that exploit our weaknesses. It's a cheaper, yet still effective way to combat a technologically superior enemy.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By th3pwn3r on 1/11/2011 1:01:38 PM , Rating: 2
"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.""

""U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently clarified the concerns in the U.S. over the J-20. He noted during a press conference that China "may be somewhat further ahead in the development of the aircraft than our intelligence had earlier predicted.""

I guess they can't make up their minds what they want us sheep to believe. Maybe the decade Colonel Dave Lapan was speaking of already ended at 2010? Regardless of it being a fighter, bomber or a fighter/bomber I don't think anyone wants China to an even playing field when it comes to their Military weaponry/technology.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By 91TTZ on 1/11/2011 1:53:01 PM , Rating: 5
Even though this fighter has flown for the first time, that doesn't mean that it's close to being ready for deployment. The F-22 prototype (YF-22 first flew in 1990, but the design was refined for another 7 years or so until it was finalized. Then after it was finalized, it took another 8 or 9 years to go into service. Admittedly, they dragged their feet during the F-22's development, but it still takes a while from first flight to being service ready.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By tinyface on 1/11/2011 2:16:50 PM , Rating: 5
Then you have to realize a road project that takes 5 years to finish in US can be done within 6 months in China. While US is talking about where to build its first ever high speed train rail, China has already built 5000 miles of such rails (much of it was funded by the government stimulus money) and eventually will double the length in 3-5 years.
Wake up America, China is emerging as a new global power whether you like it or not.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By Amiga500 on 1/11/2011 2:18:56 PM , Rating: 3
Wake up America, China is emerging as a new global power whether you like it or not.

Erm... that would be re-emerging.

For most of human history, China has been the de-facto "global" power as far as our globe is concerned.

By Calin on 1/13/2011 3:17:52 AM , Rating: 2
The first "global" power were the Huns - they terrorized both the Chinese and the European. The Chinese were a global power only in their back yard, as were the Romans, as were the Indians (south Asia Indians).

By TerranMagistrate on 1/11/2011 2:48:58 PM , Rating: 5
Albeit much of the technology running on top of those Chinese rails was stolen from Japanese and German companies.

By Scabies on 1/11/2011 4:08:26 PM , Rating: 2
which reminds me, wasn't there a story within the past two years about a server hack against either the F-22 or F-35?

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By Don Tonino on 1/11/2011 4:14:47 PM , Rating: 1
Actually foreign companies have been racing to bid and win the chinese requests of tenders for high speed railways (and any other railway related bid as well, in fact) because those requests are, by all common standards, huge: think an order of magnitude more than what is common everywhere else (mostly because of the sheer size of the country and economy). Thus, the technology behind these trains is mostly if not completely foreign but most of the contracts awarded come with the condition that the vehicles must be built or assembled in factories situated in China, something that is possible only because of the size of the contracts again. This allows of course for a knowledge transfer to the chinese workforce and companies, but this transfer is allowed and accepted by the same foreign companies which can't avoid it: either accept it or pull out of a market which is extremely lucrative. Also, quite often the technology and knowledge transfer is explicitly part of the contract: China has been buying the technology in order to cover the gap between its own railway technology and the foreign one.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By Calin on 1/13/2011 3:28:49 AM , Rating: 2
Just like to win American sales, European and Japanese companies must open factories in the U S of A. Toyota? Volkswagen? EADS promises for the future air tanker?
It's just the same all over the world.
And by the way, if the train company folds, or won't produce again the design sold to the Chinese, the Chinese can make it anew.
The T-54 tanks that came to Romania (were bought by Romania) came with all the blueprints for everything (thousands and thousands of pages), so that we could repair/rebuild anything (and we even produced T-54 derived tanks)

By Don Tonino on 1/14/2011 7:19:53 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, it's the same principle and is a very common business practice. There is no need to steal a technology which you can easily buy and yes, the Chinese just have bought the technology of high speed trains. Maybe they have stolen some of the technology behind their old attempts at HST, but when they realized they couldn't bridge the gap they just scrapped everything and went on a shopping spree.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By wielander on 1/11/2011 3:03:27 PM , Rating: 3
The one area the American government has never really skimped on is defense. Defense spending hasn't dropped below ~50% of our government's discretionary spending in the last 50 years.

It's harder for us to set up a high speed train line because of the way our government is set up. It's not so much a failure of bureaucracy (well not entirely), as it is a consequence of democracy. We have limited resources that have to be divided up somewhat fairly. It's hard to justify extremely expensive high speed rail lines that would only benefit a small percentage US citizens regularly. China in contrast doesn't have to care about or provide adequately for all of its citizens.

By zmatt on 1/11/2011 3:11:16 PM , Rating: 2
agreed, the reason we don't have modern, high speed rial in the US is because it is a poor fit for us. Places where it does exist, Europe and Japan mainly are much smaller and had their existing rail infrastructure destroyed by yours truly. When you think that many of our cities are far apart and themselves not equipped with a local rail system it is far more costly and less efficient than plane or car.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By SPOOFE on 1/11/2011 5:15:40 PM , Rating: 4
Then you have to realize a road project that takes 5 years to finish in US can be done within 6 months in China.

Then you have to realize that they can do this by ignoring silly little nuisances like "property rights" and "humane working conditions". They can't so glibly ignore things like, oh, "the laws of physics" or "structural engineering", facets that are far more delicate in designing aircraft versus a big bridge.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By Danish1 on 1/12/2011 11:08:56 PM , Rating: 2
In China what do you think matters the most, getting the thing airborne ASAP or taking any possible measure to protect the test pilots life?

and then ask yourself the same question about the US.

Obviously the chinese don't want to lose their prototype if they can avoid it but human life just doesn't hold the same value for them as it does for us and that goes for every aspect of their society including the part that is bringing a new jet to the table.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By JackPack on 1/12/2011 11:29:05 PM , Rating: 2
The test pilot for the J-20 has been flying pre-production aircraft for over 20 years.

But that goes against your propaganda, so just ignore that fact.

By Danish1 on 1/13/2011 8:36:48 AM , Rating: 2
Grats on missing the point.

By kingius on 1/13/2011 9:36:51 AM , Rating: 1
The U.S. values human life? Come again?

How many innocents must die by U.S. soldiers, U.S. weapons and U.S. decisions before you change your mind?

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By geddarkstorm on 1/11/2011 3:42:52 PM , Rating: 2
You'd be surprised what people can do when they are motivated.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By Pneumothorax on 1/11/2011 4:09:41 PM , Rating: 4
You'd be surprised what humans will do when your "Friendly Neighborhood Execution Bus" is available within minutes from a call from your local Communist Party Official.

By MGSsancho on 1/11/2011 5:12:33 PM , Rating: 2
Those buses are only for people were were convicted of a crime in court. no need to call the bus if you simply want them dead

By kingius on 1/13/2011 9:38:29 AM , Rating: 2
It might just be that they have a national project that they are proud of and so work hard to fulfill it. Whereas here in the west... money is the only motivator.

By Calin on 1/13/2011 3:14:44 AM , Rating: 2
Reaching perfection is a very long road - while the "definitive" J-20 version might need 10 more years of research and 5 more years until production, a "good enough" J-20 might be flying by the numbers in a couple of years.
The Chinese don't have the same aversion as the US has for losing pilots - so they might be using less than perfect, existing technology. Remember that Japanese losses at Pearl Harbour were quite a bit lesser than the their losses during training. And even a loss of one plane and pilot per 100 flights would be considered insignifiant versus keeping the US Navy far away

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By Ammohunt on 1/11/2011 4:14:25 PM , Rating: 2
also if you watch the takoff video you can see the engines in full after burner and the plane barely taking off. My guesss is the engines are severely under powered.

By BernardP on 1/11/2011 4:44:22 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, but this prototype is only a plywood flying mockup. The all-metal version will be much lighter...

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By MGSsancho on 1/11/11, Rating: 0
RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By fredgiblet on 1/11/2011 9:16:58 PM , Rating: 3
The SR-71 was a special case. It's engines were hybrid turbojet/ramjets with the turbojets made as small (and thus weak) as possible while still getting them into the air so that they didn't disrupt the ramjets once it got up to speed. They had to take off at full power with a very light fuel load and then refuel in the air because their main engines were intentionally underpowered. IIRC they also had to go into a dive to break the sound barrier before their ramjets would start working and allow them to begin rapid acceleration.

By 67STANG on 1/13/2011 7:17:30 PM , Rating: 3
Wasn't it because they leaked fuel from their airframe until it was properly heated? It had to be constructed this way because of there was no way to seal the fuel system that could handle the high heat that the aircraft was exposed to. Once everything was nice and toasty and they weren't losing fuel to leakage, they were refueled in the air to begin their mission. Sounds a bit crazy, but this was insane technology in the 60's. The 60's!

By the way, the company that I work for made the engines for the SR-71 =)

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By Amiga500 on 1/12/2011 7:13:57 AM , Rating: 2
Or you want to make sure you've a sizeable excess of thrust in case one engine fails. ;-)

Everything may not be as obvious as it seems. :-)

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By Ammohunt on 1/12/2011 3:02:28 PM , Rating: 2
I would believe that if the plane accelerated as such what i see in the video is full afterburner very slow take off speed.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By JackPack on 1/12/2011 11:32:13 PM , Rating: 2
It's so obvious the J-20 was NOT using afterburners during takeoff. In fact, experts were talking about that aspect of the test.

But hey, don't me dissuade you from your wishful thinking.

By Ammohunt on 1/14/2011 4:21:45 PM , Rating: 2
Hello! Stealth air craft..stealth afterburners! you can't see them in the pictures! <joke> you are probably right we are all doomed! I have started to learn chinese Ni Hao!

By Calin on 1/13/2011 3:50:32 AM , Rating: 2
I looked at the video, and the plane was barely moving then it took off and started climbing.
And the Concorde took off with full afterburners and at 400 km/h (some 250 mph), but it wasn't underpowered at all.

By BZDTemp on 1/11/2011 5:15:59 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe people are just saying "Fighter" because of the USAF doing the same with the F117.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By Aloonatic on 1/12/2011 4:10:22 AM , Rating: 2
There seem to be a lot of people in the know about theses things, so I thought I'd ask in your thread.

Just what is a "fighter" these days?

We live in an era of stealth and radar/long range missiles that essentially make the role of a fighter plane, in the sense of a "dog fighting" plane an anathema.

I'm guessing that F16s and F18 are counted as fighters, but how useful are they, or will they be in 10 years time, which is when the F22/J-20 are going to be roaming the skies in numbers?

By Mudhen6 on 1/12/2011 11:54:35 PM , Rating: 2
A "fighter" describes any aircraft that can participate in air-to-air combat. It's a general term, and has been true with the sole exception of the F-117 stealth fighter (which could only carry bombs)

Anyway, being described as a fighter doesn't mean said plane will be good at it.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By talonvor on 1/12/2011 8:26:23 PM , Rating: 2
Nah, the update of the F18 to carry the AIM54 phoenix makes this thing an easy target. As far as its stealth abilities go. Well, we will just have to wait and see.

By 91TTZ on 1/13/2011 11:07:43 AM , Rating: 2
Huh? The F-18 can't carry the Phoenix missile. The Phoenix missile isn't even in service anymore, it was retired.

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