by WorldTribune Staff, February 19, 2018
China has confirmed it has deployed the first of its “fifth generation” J-20 stealth fighters.
People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) spokesman Shen Jinke told the Xinhua News Agency that the J-20 is ready to “safeguard China’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity” as part of frontline fighter squadrons.
The J-20 was first seen by Chinese plane-spotters in 2010.
Military analysts question whether the J-20 can match the radar-evading properties of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor or the latest strike jet in the U.S. arsenal, Lockheed’s F-35. The F-22, developed for the U.S. Air Force, is the J-20’s closest lookalike.
Related: China stealth fighter enters service as Beijing vows to narrow gap with U.S., March 10, 2017
The J-20 is a “twin-engine stealth fighter with canards (appendages on the wings that offer greater stability), advanced active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, and three internal weapons bays for air-to-air missiles and bombs. Similarly to to Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor and Russia’s Su-57 fighters, the J-20 is a high-speed fighter that’s very maneuverable, with capacity for long range and stealth,” analyst Peter Warren Singer, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, wrote for Popular Science.
Singer noted that the J-20 is a “vast improvement over its fourth-generation counterparts (the J-10 and J-11 fighters, which currently occupy the front line in PLA units), though it will still likely take China’s military a couple years to make full use of the J-20’s advanced radar and stealth.”
“Around 2021, the J-20 is slated to get new WS-15 turbofan engines, which would replace the Russian AL-31FN engines it currently uses. The more powerful WS-15 engines will give the J-20 extra thrust to supercruise (that is, reach supersonic speeds without using fuel-thirsty afterburners) and more energy to maneuver. When that happens, China will further establish itself as Asia’s leading aviation industrial power.”
China hopes another in-development stealth fighter, the J-31, will compete with the F-35. Beijing unveiled the J-31 at the Zhuhai airshow in 2014.