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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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Keep those F-22A assembly lines running
By TerranMagistrate on 1/11/2011 3:13:17 PM , Rating: 2
There has never been a better time than now to order an additional 400 or so F-22s to meet this growing threat to our national security. It will keep around 95,000 people employed for a long time, we can replace our aging fleet of F-15s, and maintain the air dominance that we've held for the last 40 years.

Taiwan should be very nervous because if the U.S. continues on its current course of cancellations and cutbacks, its days as an independent country are numbered.

RE: Keep those F-22A assembly lines running
By mellomonk on 1/11/2011 4:51:27 PM , Rating: 2
Negative. I don't even think you could find many in the Pentagon who feel the need for 400 additional air superiority fighters at that cost. The world is a far different place then when the F-22 was proposed, designed, and built.

If jobs are the issue, you would employee considerably more in any number of defense as well non-defense projects with the funds needed to restart and build F-22. $150 million + a pop fighters based on 20 year old concepts and designs do not create that many jobs, especially considering the costs of our current conflicts and standing defense forces.

RE: Keep those F-22A assembly lines running
By roykahn on 1/12/2011 6:48:16 AM , Rating: 1
The world is a far different place then when the F-22 was proposed, designed, and built.

Not entirely. I believe the US military budget has progressively increased since the end of the cold war, so you can't pretend that military spending is correlated to threats to US military dominance.

Government and military leaders want their public to think that there is a contstant threat to the safety of its country. That will allow them to stay in power and to maintain its military and economic stranglehold on other countries.

The argument about creating jobs is absurd. Instead of creating jobs that help mankind, like in social services and environmentalism, it somehow seems preferable to create weapons and continue terrorising foreign countries.

considering the costs of our current conflicts

Replace the world conflicts with invasions and you'd be closer to the truth. The world "conflict" is what an aggressor uses to describe its military activities. You shouldn't repeat such propoganda tools yourself.

By TerranMagistrate on 1/12/2011 10:18:21 AM , Rating: 2
What better way to help mankind than maintaining peace through overwhelming force used as a deterrent.

By roykahn on 1/12/2011 6:12:06 PM , Rating: 1
I hope you're being sarcastic there :-P There is no peace when the US gets involved in another country. But I guess it depends what your definition of peace is. US leaders prefer to use the term "stability", like "wer'e seeking to create stability in country X". There's a key difference. You can create stability by overthrowing a democratically elected government and/or by invading that country with military force. It sure as hell doesn't result in peace, but it sure does result in economic conditions that are ripe for US investors.

RE: Keep those F-22A assembly lines running
By Eris23007 on 1/12/2011 1:52:59 PM , Rating: 4
Absolutely incorrect. The defense budget shrank CONSIDERABLY after the end of the cold war (this was termed the "peace dividend") and only started increasing after 9/11.


Note that, looking forward, budgets are slated to go back down, except for interest on the debt created by defense spending (though I would like to better understand how they calculate that number).

It has been fairly convincingly argued that the so-called "peace dividend" is part of the reason we are spending so much more now - we stopped spending on increasing / modernizing defense capabilities, and when you do that sort of thing it gets far more expensive to restart later due to re-establishing the capabilities that have been allowed to diminish / expire.

RE: Keep those F-22A assembly lines running
By roykahn on 1/12/2011 6:03:06 PM , Rating: 2
I stand corrected. However, I don't see how you can say it shrank "considerably". The end of the cold war and the number one perceived threat to US world dominance having been removed should have resulted in a much larger drop. Other excuses were given to keep military spending high. I think it was the technological advancements of third world countries or some such nonsense.

Your choice of words are misleading. You say that "we stopped spending on increasing defence capabilities". A small decrease in the huge annual military budget isn't really a change in priorities. And the word "defence" implies that military spending is needed to keep the US safe from hostile attackers. The US has been responsible for most attacks by a foreign force which had little, if any, relation to "defence".

By Mudhen6 on 1/13/2011 12:00:59 AM , Rating: 2
You're oversimplifying things and understating the decrease in spending - the US government can't simply just "stop" spending. Military programs are in progress all the time. You can't just cancel them because the Soviet Union crumbled overnight - you'd be left with a lot of unemployed and pissed off people.

In fact, if anything, part of the reason why spending remains high is that with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, military programs in progress at the time (such as the F-22) had their development stretched - which saved in short-term costs but in the long-run caused program expenses to balloon out of proportion.

RE: Keep those F-22A assembly lines running
By NanoTube1 on 1/11/2011 5:18:12 PM , Rating: 1
The US should go after unmanned stealth fighter drones with everything they have. This is the real future, not the F22 (as mighty as it may be).

If an MQ-9 Reaper drone costs $10.5M, I would say that a cost of $25M for a full fledged stealth fighter drone makes sense (an F15 costs around $30M). An F22 costs $150M so do the math:

6 drones for every single F22, not to mention the pilots. Instead of 400, you'll have 2,400 cutting edge drones...

RE: Keep those F-22A assembly lines running
By wiz220 on 1/11/2011 5:42:43 PM , Rating: 1
Couldn't agree more! China is developing craft to fight the battles of the late 1900's. Let them spend billions on all of these new projects, we already have a response.

I think that the Pentagon knew that we were going to be transitioning to UCAV's in the near future and that might be one of the factors that went into deciding that the F-22 project could be ended. The money saved by cancelling the F-22 can build huge fleets of UCAV's and develop new detection techniques for other country's stealthy planes.

By JackPack on 1/12/2011 12:50:22 PM , Rating: 2
Four letters: ASAT

No communications satellite means your UCAV is a dead stick.

By zmatt on 1/11/2011 7:06:37 PM , Rating: 1
I agree 100%. China may have a numerical advantage when it comes to manpower, but if we convert our military to drones then it wont matter. We loose drones, we just build more, you can't replace experienced pilots. Just ask germany by the end of the war most of their "pilots" could barely fly a plane. If we take them out of the equation then we have already won.

RE: Keep those F-22A assembly lines running
By ekv on 1/12/2011 3:22:31 AM , Rating: 2
The US should go after unmanned stealth fighter drones
There are pluses and minuses. Maneuverability and, in general, performance is a win for UCAV's. Cost of course is also a win.

Autonomy is not. If a decision is made to fire a weapon you want a "real live person" in the loop making that decision. That is the reason UCAV's are remotely piloted. Which means a comm. link ... and those links are vulnerable.

You can try to engineer around this ... AI has come a long ways (any decent video game proves it). But then you'll drive up complexity and cost ... and there's always the Skynet possibility, not to mention viruses (stuxnet) and hackers.

By TerranMagistrate on 1/12/2011 7:51:37 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly and not to mention the vulnerability of satellites, which I think China has the ability to reach with certain missiles that they have developed.

RE: Keep those F-22A assembly lines running
By corduroygt on 1/12/2011 8:33:02 AM , Rating: 2
How about having that Laser equipped 747 as the command and control plane, where the UCAV pilots sit? It'd be short range communications broadcast with a ton of power. Hard to jam something like that.

By TerranMagistrate on 1/12/2011 8:46:48 AM , Rating: 2
You jam it with a long range air-to-air missile, using an interceptor like this J-20.

RE: Keep those F-22A assembly lines running
By corduroygt on 1/12/2011 11:34:16 AM , Rating: 2
Not when the airborne laser shoots the missiles down.

RE: Keep those F-22A assembly lines running
By JackPack on 1/12/2011 12:59:04 PM , Rating: 2
Sure, if there's a single missile coming from the front.

You really think a J-20 would be silly enough to do a head-on approach? Or that a battery of S-400 SAM systems cannot overwhelm a 747 with a single laser? Or that China hasn't already covered their strategic missiles with the same heat-resistant tiles used on the Shuttle to nullify the airborne laser?

RE: Keep those F-22A assembly lines running
By ekv on 1/12/2011 3:02:16 PM , Rating: 2
Sure, if there's a single missile
I'd agree with that since the ABL 747 "is primarily designed as a missile defense system to destroy tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs), while in boost phase." The ATL is designed for ground targets.

Having said that, keep in mind that planes can actually maneuver, and the rotational spec's on the 747's mirror aren't common knowledge. Keep in mind that, per suggestion, this 747 would be more like AWACS, with laser instead of radar. Lots of communications gear. That means lots of UCAV's. You could "tether" an entire wing off one plane. That means the 747 isn't exactly an easy target. Think about it.
heat-resistant tiles
Interesting. I'm not a physicist, so this may actually work, but I suspect it won't since mirroring has questionable utility. Most communist-type scientists are looking at liquids. Do you have any links that supports your claim?

RE: Keep those F-22A assembly lines running
By JackPack on 1/12/2011 7:54:04 PM , Rating: 2
What you've described makes the 747 an even bigger sitting duck.

Not only does that 747 have a massive infrared and radar signature, now it's emitting all sorts of radio emissions which is perfect for an anti-radiation missile.

Regarding the nose laser turret... quite frankly, that should be the least of your concerns. Tests have indicated the ABL takes 2 minutes to shoot down an unprotected missile. During that time, there’s probably going to be more than 1 air-to-air missile heading towards the 747 at Mach 4+. There are a multitude of other issues such as the range of the laser being only 200-250 km, turbulence, direction of attack, etc.

The silica tiles used on the Shuttle remain cool to the touch even when exposed to a blowtorch. Even the Apollo used an ablative heat shield. This is nothing new.
Liquid what? Even countries like DPRK and Iran have moved to solid motors.

By NanoTube1 on 1/13/2011 5:30:04 PM , Rating: 2
Some of your points are valid.
However, what's important to remember is that everything in today's battlefield is integrated and layered. A 747 serving as a local control system for drones does not "sit" in the air all by itself. It is protected by air superiority fighters such as the F22 or dedicated drones, and there are other layers as well. The J20s need to successfully negotiate all this stuff before it can down these 747s, even if it is equipped with BVR weapons.

Furthermore, remember that when you have armies of drones doing most of the combat you can deploy your 187 F22 to protect these 747 assets. 187 of those should be enough.

Last but not least, today, a manned fighter plane is just as vulnerable to virus/cyber/com attacks as an unmanned drone. If anything, it is even worse because if compromised, you will almost surely lose the pilot as well.

By ekv on 1/14/2011 1:42:09 AM , Rating: 2
What you've described makes the 747 an even bigger sitting duck.
Wasn't my idea to begin with, however, by the same measure AWACS has a massive "signature" as well. Those are indeed highly prized targets. That still does not make them easy targets.

My point was simply, if whatever you have to throw at the 747, for example, has to go through potentially hundreds of UCAV's, each with their own munitions, I doubt much if anything is going to make it. Not to mention fighter cover. If you want to lob some nukes, ok, that's another story (which has two sides to it).

RE: Keep those F-22A assembly lines running
By Skywalker123 on 1/11/2011 6:30:05 PM , Rating: 1
Taiwan's days are numbered, no matter what the U.S. does.

By TerranMagistrate on 1/12/2011 8:50:00 AM , Rating: 2
Don't be so certain, comrade.

By Roy2001 on 1/12/2011 1:06:51 PM , Rating: 3
"There has never been a better time than now to order an additional 400 or so F-22s to meet this growing threat to our national security"
I am curious, how can China threat to US national security? They want to invade Eroupe? Hawaii? Or even Guam? We already have trillions of deficit and debt, remember the fall of USSR?

By Calin on 1/13/2011 3:59:38 AM , Rating: 2
As both the F-22 and this new J-20 are land-based, they aren't much of a threat to each other (with the distance between USA and China exceeding 2000 miles).
The J-20 is an likely enemy mostly for carrier-based aircrafts and bombers.

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