Wednesday, November 27, 2019

China's Chengdu J-20 - A Game-Changing Stealth Fighter

A recently released video by the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) gives us a sense of the advancements that China has made in its stealth fighter aircraft program, a program that is clearly designed to counter Washington's recent moves in the region.

The Chengdu J-20 fifth generation multirole fighter made its public debut in November 2016 as shown on this news item from CCTV:

Let's look a what is known about the J-20's specifications.  This multirole fifth generation fighter is equipped with the latest Chinese fly-by-wire technology as well as advanced fire control and engine management features.  Pilots will control the aircraft through a traditional Hands on Throttle and Stick or HOTAS arrangement and will have access to a wide-angle, full-colour cockpit LCD display similar to the display in the Lockheed F-35 Lightning II.  It is suspected that the power plant is a turbofan capable of outputting 30,000 pounds of thrust.  The power plants will have thrust vectoring nozzles for improved maneuverability and super cruise capability.  The J-20 can be equipped with a variety of Russian and Chinese air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, anti-radiation missiles, laser-guided bombs and conventional drop bombs.

Here is a very recent video from CCTV showing the J-20 in action:

According to Jane's Defence Weekly, in July, Chinese state-owned media (CCTV) released a photograph of a J-20 bearing a serial number of a known combat unit of the PLAAF on its tail as shown on this picture which appeared in Global Times, another Chinese state-controlled media outlet:

The number 6 on the tail indicates that the J-20 is on combat duty and that combat troops have mastered the fighter jet.

The number 62001 indicates that the aircraft is assigned to the PLAAF's 9th Air Brigade based at Wuhu (located 280 kilometres inland from Shanghai) which operates under the PLA's Eastern Theatre Command.

Let's look at another recent fighter jet development in Southeast Asia.  Here is an announcement from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency outlining the proposed sale of sixty-six F-16 fighter aircraft along with various spare equipment for an estimated total cost of $8 billion to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO)/aka Taiwan as shown on this news release:

According to Defense News, the Trump Administration has officially cleared the sale of the F-16s to Taiwan however it must still receive Congressional approval

Now, let's put the two stories together.  Here is what Defense World has to say about the implementation of the J-20 and its impact on the United States and its recent sale of F-16 jets to Taiwan:

"State television showed a video released by the PLA-AF showing seven planes taking off and flying in formation during a night sortie. The message seems aimed squarely at Taiwan which recently received a US State Department approval for 66 F-16s of the latest Block 70/72 standard which come equipped with the latest phased array radar, data links and electronic countermeasures.

The message behind showing seven J-20s could be that China's military is already operating a considerable number of J-20s, “which could achieve regional aerial superiority and destroy the enemy's strategic facilities deep in hostile territory,” Global Times said quoting unnamed experts." (my bold)

While Donald Trump claims that China has "stolen" American technology, it is quite clear that the J-20 is a game-changing development in the region and one that can be used for both defensive and offensive operations.

Let's close with this sobering quote from the chief designer of the J-20, Yang Wei:

"To truly achieve peace, defending our homeland is not enough.  We just not only defend but attack."

China's recent J-20 flights show that Beijing is not sitting on its laurels while Washington attempts to exert its power in the South Pacific region.

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