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Core Tip: Last update: 9 Feb 2011 Go to previous page: J20 stealth fighter It is not of concern that they are working on a fifth-generation fighter, Lapan said, since the Chinese are still having difficulties with their J-20(video) fourth-generation

Last update: 9 Feb 2011

Go to previous page: J20 stealth fighter

“It is not of concern that they are working on a fifth-generation fighter,” Lapan said, since the Chinese are “still having difficulties with their J-20(video) fourth-generation fighter.”

The newspaper did not address the authenticity of the photos, which showed up a month ago on unofficial military news websites.

A Washington-based Asia military affairs analyst, though, describes the jet shown in the pictures as “the real deal.”

J20 China 4th Generation Stealth Fighter - Last update: 12 Jan 2010

“At first glance this J-20 fighter has the potential to be competitive with the F-22 and to be an efficient F-35 killer,” said Richard Fisher of the International Assessment and Strategy Center, author of the new book, “China’s Military Modernization.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

J20 China 4th Generation Stealth Fighter - Last update: 12 Jan 2010

The J-20 has a canard delta layout (like Chengdu’s J-10) with two canted, all-moving vertical stabilizers (like the T-50) and smaller canted ventral fins. The stealth body shaping is similar to that of the F-22. The flat body sides are aligned with the canted tails, the wing-body junction is clean, and there is a sharp chine line around the forward fuselage. The cant angles are greater than they are on the Lockheed Martin F-35, and the frameless canopy is similar to that of the F-22.

The engines are most likely members of the Russian Saturn AL-31F family, also used on the J-10. The production version will require yet-to-mature indigenous engines. The inlets use diverterless supersonic inlet (DSI) technology, first adopted for the F-35 but also used by Chengdu on the J-10B—the newest version of the J-10—and the Sino-Pakistani JF-17 Thunder.

The main landing gears retract into body-side bays, indicating the likely presence of F-22-style side weapon bays ahead of them. The ground clearance is higher than on the F-22, which would facilitate loading larger weapons including air-to-surface munitions. Chinese engineers at the Zhuhai air show in November disclosed that newly developed air-to-ground weapons are now required to be compatible with the J-20.

Features at the rear of the aircraft—including underwing actuator fairings, axisymmetrical engine exhausts and the ventral fins—appear less compatible with stealth, so the J-20 may not match the all-aspect stealth of the F-22. There are two possible explanations for this: Either the aircraft seen here is the first step toward an operational design, or China’s requirements do not place as much stress on rear-aspect signatures.

The major open question at this point is whether the J-20 is a true prototype, like the T-50, or a technology demonstrator, with a status similar to the YF-22 flown in 1990. That question will be answered by whether, and how many, further J-20s enter flight testing in the next 12-24 months.

Developing an effective multi-mission stealthy aircraft presents challenges beyond the airframe, because it requires a sensor suite that uses automated data fusion, emission control and low-probability-of-intercept data links to build an operational picture for the pilot without giving away the aircraft’s own location.

 

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