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A Chinese Stealth Challenge? Beginning of Stealth Arms Race

Several experts said the prototype's body appeared to borrow from the F-22 and other U.S. stealth aircraft, but they couldn't tell from the photographs how advanced it was in terms of avionics, composite materials or other key aspects of stealth technology.

I am little busy these days so please hold on a next post in series “Nuclear Power Dilemma” will be up soon. Meanwhile, read the following two pieces appeared in New Scientist and The Wall Street Journal, both making same excuses, and seems to be in highly nervous. China’s J-20, stealth aircraft, is it really stealth or just looked stealthy? One of my posts last year I referenced to one Chinese military source citing the revelation of stealth aircraft and aircraft carrier by China. Though the quoted time I put was around 10 years according to Chinese authorities, but this I don’t really think is applicable. From my opinion, China is still far away in stealth arms race, however, I really do hope that J-20 is in real a handy stealth aircraft and waiting anxiously for more on the issue. Anyway, have a read, I will soon update the blog with my recent post.

Has China’s new jet launched a stealth arms race?

New Scientist

China’s first flight test of its new high-tech J-20 stealth military jet on 11 January has drawn a lot of attention, particularly because it came during the visit of US defense secretary Robert Gates. What it means is another question, and the answers are complex. Military analysts had known China was developing a combat plane in the class of the US F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, but they had not expected it to make its first appearance in December, Aviation Week and Space Technology reported. Several high-speed ground tests, in which the craft’s front wheel rose off the ground, preceded the first flight.

China has released videos of the new jet on the ground, taking off, and landing at Chengdu. The New York Times quoted a Hong Kong analyst as saying the plane flew for 15 minutes over the airfield. With two distinctive angled tail fins like those of the F-22, it’s clearly intended to be stealthy. The Times also reports it is intended carry missiles and fly long distances when refueled in the air. The demonstration worries some analysts because it’s the first aircraft to challenge the performance of the F-22, the top of the US air force’s fleet. “We have become accustomed to a world where our air power is dominant,” Rand Corporation analyst Roger Cliff told Newsweek. “But that dominance is now in question.” Once the J-20 is deployed, in that scenario, US top guns would lose their high-performance stealth advantage and no longer rule the skies. o so fast, says Aviation Week. New, more powerful radars using active electronically scaled arrays can pick up fainter and fainter targets, and are fast catching up to stealth technology. “Anti-stealth will bring into question all stealth designs,” it says, hinting that the US may already have airborne radars able to spot stealth aircraft.

Moreover, perfecting stealth technology takes time. The US started its F-22 programme in the 1980s. To an experienced eye, the stealthy look of the Chinese jet “is just sort of cobbled together,” Teal group analyst Richard Aboulafia told The Wall Street Journal . He thinks China may be able to deploy the new aircraft in a decade, but by then the US should have better technology.

That sounds eerily familiar. We used to call it an arms race.

Actual Article

China’s J-20 Fighter: Stealthy or Just Stealthy-Looking?

The Wall Street Journal

When the First grainy images of China’s J-20 fighter appeared online, they seemed to confirm the fears of some China watchers: Beijing appeared to be on track to develop a “fifth generation” aircraft that featured the radar-eluding properties of advanced U.S. aircraft like the F-22 Raptor. But exactly how stealthy is the J-20? And does it mean that China can challenge the U.S. for control of the skies? In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Richard Aboulafia, an aviation analyst with the Teal Group, an aerospace and defense consulting firm, said China is still years away from perfecting stealth aircraft. “It’s certainly stealthy-looking,” Mr. Aboulafia said. It looks like it’s got some of the faceting and some of the shaping that characterizes the front of the F-22, for example. “But then you look the details and you realize this thing is just sort of cobbled together,” he added. Take, for instance, the canards: forewings close to the nose of the aircraft that provide maneuverability. According to Mr. Aboulafia, “There’s no better way of guaranteeing a radar reflection and compromise of stealth” than adding canards to the aircraft. The same goes for the engine nozzles, which Mr. Aboulafia said were clearly not designed to be stealthy, as well the large overall size of the aircraft. Still, appearance of the J-20 prototype was a dramatic prelude to Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington this week. But Mr. Aboulafia said that China still lacks the command-and-control networks, aerial refueling capabilities and other systems that allow the U.S. to project air power around the globe. What China does seem to be on track to produce, Mr. Aboulafia said, were aircraft that may eventually be on par with fighters like the F-22, which was designed by the U.S. in the 1980s. “It’s quite possible that in 10 years they have a functioning equivalent of the F-22, but by then, the West will have moved on to something far more impressive,” he said.

Actual Article

China’s New Stealth Race

And off-course don’t forget to hit a review of China’s New Stealth Race, first published after appearance of J-20 on TV on Wall Street Journal U.S. officials played down Chinese advances on the plane, which American intelligence agencies believe will likely be operational around 2018. “We are aware that the Chinese have recently been conducting taxi tests and there are photos of it,” said Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan. “We know they are working on a fifth-generation fighter but progress appears to be uneven.” China has made rapid progress in developing a capability to produce advanced weapons, also including unmanned aerial vehicles, after decades of importing and reverse engineering Russian arms. The photographs throw a fresh spotlight on the sensitive issue of China’s military modernization just as Washington and Beijing try to improve relations following a series of public disputes in 2010. The Chinese prototype looks like it has “the potential to be a competitor with the F-22 and to be decisively superior to the F-35,” said Mr. Fisher. The J-20 has two engines, like the F-22, and is about the same size, while the F-35 is smaller and has only one engine. China’s stealth-fighter program has implications also for Japan, which is considering buying F-35s, and for India, which last month firmed up a deal with Russia to jointly develop and manufacture a stealth fighter.

Wrap Up

The J-20 currently has two prototypes for test flight. One use the Russian AL-31 engines, and the other use the Chinese WS-10G engines, which are newer and provide more thrust. The Chinese counterpart of the X-37B, named “Shenlong”, did make the maiden flight in 2010. The program is very secretive and rarely known to the outside world. The entire J-20 project were created to defeat the F-22, and chances are, if a common analyst can think of a problem, real aerospace engineers would have thought of it too, and then found a solution. America had a head start, with post war German technology and brainpower transfer taking a large portion of the credit, however head start will only give you the lead for a while, its the smarter ones that’ll lead int he long run. As Professor Keith Hayward, Head of Research, Royal Aeronautical Society, notes in an upcoming analysis of the Chinese aerospace industry for the February issue of Aerospace International magazine: “China’s wider commercial relationships with developing world states are also providing useful leverage in forging deals.” China, then wants to move from just producing aircraft for its own domestic consumption, and a red-hot product like the J-20 could help it achieve this, far more than any slightly overweight A320 lookalike like the C919. Furthermore, with ‘Western-equivalent’ Chinese AAMs missiles to ‘bundle’ it with, any nation buying a J-20 would get an extremely capable weapon system – that will be ‘good enough’ for the majority of air forces and cheap enough to buy in siginficant numbers. Engines, too, are as of the moment an unknown. Previously reliant on Russia for engines any, development in powerplants would signify a greater leap forward than the pure airframe and some analysts have suggested a new Chinese engine, the Shenyang WS 15 may power the J-20. However, notably the J-20 also uses a divertless supersonic intake (DSI) and is only the third aircraft to sport this feature after the F-35 and Pakistan Air Force’s JF-17, suggesting that Chinese experience with this technology has been successful so far and it has brought benefits. armament China is now making great strides in guided weapons of all types. Its AMRAAM-type AAM, the PL-12, reportedly outranges the original US weapon. A short-range dogfight missile, the PL-ASR has been described as ‘very scary’ by one western missile expert. Meanwhile China is reported to be working on a long-range ramjet powered missile – the PL-13 comparable to Europe’s MBDA Meteor which, if introduced today, would outrange anything in the (white) US inventory. In short, Western missile experts in private are noticeably rattled by this progress and maintain that any gap in quality between western and Chinese air-to-air weaponry is fast closing.I sincerely hope best for J-20, by no means argue with Chinese abilities to compete in stealth race.

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