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RIA Novosti

Analysis & Opinion

The future of China's fifth-generation stealth fighter

21:06 29/12/2010
RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik

Both experts and amateurs who have studied the blurred photos of an unfamiliar fighter jet on a runway in China (http://china-defense.blogspot.com/2010/12/chinese-stealth-in-plain-sight-curious.html) have concluded that Beijing has started testing its fifth-generation stealth fighter.

The J-20 prototype is expected to rival the U.S. F-22 and the Russian T-50 fighters. But is China ready to start mass-producing the aircraft? How good is the prototype?

Experts call it a combination of the Russian and U.S. fifth-generation fighters, but that greatly simplifies matters. In the last 20 years, China has been working closely with Russia to develop a modern fighter jet. But the J-20 is not simply a copy of a Russian design. Rather China has tried to build a completely new aircraft based on the technology and knowledge it has gained during its years of cooperation with Russia.

The future of the new Chinese fighter will depend on several factors.

Engine

It is not clear what kind of engine the plane will have. Some say it will use the prospective Chinese-made WS-15 engine with a maximum thrust exceeding 18,000 kg, but the engine is still in the pipeline.

China has been unable to reproduce Russia's highly efficient high-temperature turbofan AL-31F engine, designed in the early 1980s and currently mounted on the Su-27 fighter and its modifications. The engines for Sukhoi planes manufactured in China are made in Russia and then assembled and adjusted in China.

The AL-31F engine is also mounted on China's J-10 fighter planes. The engine's Chinese analogue, the WS-10, is less efficient than the Russian prototype.

Materials

A fifth-generation stealth fighter must be able to evade radar, and so it must be made from modern composite materials. However, China does not produce such materials in commercial amounts, and experts doubt that it can develop and produce them for its Air Force.

Electronics

Electronic equipment, primarily radar, in China stands at approximately the same level as its engines. Chinese designs fall short of the capabilities of their Russian, European and American counterparts. Although China has been gradually narrowing the gap, it still has to import modern electronic equipment for its aircraft.

The best aircraft radar systems are currently made for Russia's Su-30MKK fighters, and China will most likely copy this design. It is not clear how much it will differ in terms of specifications from next-generation Russian or American radar systems.

Weapons

The guided weapons used in the Chinese Air Force were mostly copied from U.S., Israeli and Russian prototypes made in the 1960s through 1980s. China will have to spend a great deal of time and effort to develop its own weapons, even if it borrows elements of prototypes bought from other countries. But foreign producers are becoming increasingly wary of sharing their next-generation technology with China.

Conclusions

Since the 1970s, China has consistently lagged 15 to 20 years behind the world leaders in aircraft manufacturing. This was true of their third- and fourth-generation aircraft, and this appears to be the case with its fifth-generation fighter plane.

The J-20 fighter was produced nearly 20 year after the U.S. YF-22 (the prototype of the mass-produced F-22A), 17 years after the Russian MiG-1.44 (MiG-MFI, or Multifunctional Frontline Fighter), and 14 after Russia's S.37 (Su-47).

If the J-20 is accepted as the prototype for a new series, China will be able to produce a fifth-generation fighter plane within 10 years. If not, it will begin batch production no sooner than 15 or 20 years from now.

No one knows for sure what will happen, but it's certainly not too early to make predictions about the future of the new plane.

Given its traditional policy of aircraft manufacturing, China will most likely create a functional analogue of foreign-made 5G planes that will cost 50% to 80% less than Russian and U.S. models. China will most likely sell the plane in Central Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Southeast Asia, as well as to the richest African countries.

The export models of the J-20 and the planes of that series made for the Chinese Air Force will have foreign, including Russian, equipment and weapons. Moreover, in the next 20 to 30 years China will have to continue to import modern aircraft technology. Despite the strides made by China's aircraft designers in the last 20 years, China has only slightly narrowed the technological gap dividing it from the global leaders.

The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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RIA NovostiJ-10The future of China's fifth-generation stealth fighter

21:06 29/12/2010 Both experts and amateurs who have studied the blurred photos of an unfamiliar fighter jet on a runway in China have concluded that Beijing has started testing its fifth-generation stealth fighter.>>

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  • AnthonyTfuture of China's fifth-generation stealth fighter
    01:06, 30/12/2010
    Chinese technology is greatly underestimated in this article. I think Ilya forgets that the financial resources available to the Chinese aviation industry are significantly greater than the corresponding Russian resources
    • aresources
      05:56, 03/01/2011
      Anthony you seam to be reasonable person yet I don't agree with you....
      What you forget to notice that Kramnik writes article in PRESENT and not in the future! You are right when you talking about huge resources but they can have influence in certain time lapse!
      For me Ilya Kramnik is the BEST Russian military expert I know (I've read quite lot Russian military articles) and his comments on any subjects are down to the ground & without exaggerations always !
      Your comment would be much more articulate if you would make argument why these resources(China has bigger resources for quite some time)suddenly will create conditions for China to make quantum leap?!
      We all know that huge progress of China tech was made on COPYING of Soviet & Western technology.
      Now they finally must try to create their own inventions in critical technologies if they want to be in the same level with the best like USA & Russia..
      Read Karmnik again, he is also saying "China is catching up"........
      He just doesn't have same conclusions like you, cause he compares China's progress in the recent past and makes his predictions based on that.
      Your predictions are based on optimism and preference to China and "RESOURCES" that re bigger alredy 30 years than Russian.
      Yeah RESOURCES that magic word !
      It helps lot I agree but it doesn't make miracles!!!
      Russia will not make the same mistake again to sell to China best technology to be copied ILLEGALY ( like SU-27SK into J-11 etc...)!
      So best tech that will arrive in recent future like PAKFA or 5th generation engine or S-500 will not be sold to China before Russia is sure they have lot of advancement themselves to the China in those areas...
      It is sad that Russia must protect her tech from China who acts NOT like allay & friend but like common THIEF .........
      Example - ;
      I've read that Taiwan wants to buy Russian subs ( I'm sure that China would go mad if Russia sells to Taiwan few subs yet Chinese as Russia's "allay" don't hesitate to rip off Russian tech ILLEGALLY ! )

      Conclusion:
      Let us wait 1st that China starts using in production their own 4th GENERATION jet engine ( that is copy of Russian engine BTW ) for Chinese planes....

      And only than, when they can PRODUCE COMPLETE 4th generation plane without Russian engines we can start to talk about China's capacity to catch up on Russia and USA in 5th generation....
    • ivangoulashthe future of china's fifth generation stealth fighter
      08:15, 30/12/2010
      It's the author wishful thinking that china cannot build a stealth fighter as good as Russia. The fact is the advancement of chinese technology in different major field is so immense that china is overtaking Russia in almost all categories. Russia can't even produce a decent bullet train. China leads the world. The world's fastest supercomputer is made in china. The F-22 was designed by supercomputers not as advanced as what china has today. Those engines, electronics, materials and weapons that Russia has is not impossible to master or exceed. The chinese may be just so polite in not telling the Russians that they have overtaken them in many technology as they never bragged about their acheivements. All those previous high tech planes that the author mention such as Mig 1.44 or SU 37 are prototypes and was never mastered or operational. they were laughing stock of the West. russia cannot even produce a decent helicopter carrier and they have to buy it from France. As for China, Napoleon once said don't wake up the dragon and it will shake the world. Now it's happening. So again it's your denial and wishful thinking. The chinese will soon produce and outsell Russian in weapons. Russia is obsolete.
      • AnthonyT(no title)
        08:50, 30/12/2010
        @ivangoulash

        you've gone to the other extreme. The J-20 does indeed use the aerodynamic set up of the Mig-1.44 blenede with elements from the F-22/35. So yes Russia does have an edge in aviation tech over China.

        My point was that China is catching up and has more financial resources to spend on military projects.
        Reply | Comments: 1Expand branch
      • jzsnfuture of China's fifth-generation stealth fighter
        02:24, 31/12/2010
        hm sorry if I am too harsh on this one but this so called "expert analysis" pretends to be objective and list these categories to cloud reader's judgement because these categories are only within the parameters of what they want to talk about or make you read. And as for all the agenda hidden articles like this one, their disguise is always off in the concluding paragraph. Basically in this writer's mind, he wishes for China to continually lag behind western countries for the foreseeable future and be a sitting duck in a conflict with other air power, while at the same time convince the readers to believe so.

        Remember, many of the great powers such as former Soviet Union, Germany, Japan in the past were able to become leaders in aviation in extremely short time regardless of whether they were for good or bad purposes. Also, they had done so in a more isolated world compared to today (no international exchange). Using history to judge technology is very inaccurate and sometimes outright wrong because technologies u could never imagine would pop out tomorrow with enough funding.
      • vusiThe J20 rules
        23:32, 13/01/2011
        If what the writer of the article wrote is true, then why is the USA stressing and shaking about the J20?

        Are they just making jokes? The writer of the article doesn't know the current china and is writing based on pink "white" nations mostly those in the EU artificial image of themselves about china they glue most of the time in their media.

        Russia doesn't even have a computer operating system of its own, while china has, Russia doesn't even have a computer processor of its own while china has and the list goes on. Yet this writer is writing as if china is some nation in Africa.

        Plus china is the second largest world economy right now and Russia is maybe number 15, yet he writing as if Russia is on top of china.
        • buidnhThe future of China fifth generation stealth fighter
          19:16, 17/02/2011
          The title of this article must be changed into " he future of China fifth generation steal fighter" or something like that. I copy a comment from the article of American website with the title:"Is China's High-Speed Rail Pricing out Passengers".
          You the American and Western men so you never know clearly about Chinese people and its ruler since ancient time. Chinese strategy is to kill people and acculturate the neighborhood by force them to depend on her. In the past, China advertised to buy cattle toenail all the border line with Vietnam and corn silk…Finally the people along the border kill all cattle and cut down the corn field to became hunger. Then she provided food and many demand. The purpose of Chinese ruler wanted the people along border rebel but we have our own trick. About two decade ago China sold eggs with very cheep price that make the navtive similar ones could not survive. The motorbike, automobile she did the same. And know the high speed railway is not exception, she stole and copied the Japanese and French hi tech then she rival unfair. The further strategy is that she will raise the price when other competitor died. Thermo-electric powers in Vietnam nowadays are the good example. Firstly, she offerred in a very low price and she won all the project in Vietnam at that field. Secondly she take all the workers, materials from home (even the toilet) to your counties. The final, she delay and no one know when they are finished. It is the main reason why Vietnam lack of electricity. That is the lesson for Vietnam and other counties all over the world.
          And: I am from south Korea and I agree with you communist. Chinese are so selfish, dishonest and no sense of gratitude
          Reply | Comments: 1Expand branch

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