|Chengdu J-XX [J-20] Stealth Fighter Prototype|
A Preliminary Assessment
Technical Report APA-TR-2011-0101
|by Dr Carlo Kopp, SMAIAA, SMIEEE, PEng,|
Peter Goon, BE (Mech), FTE (USNTPS)
3rd January, 2011
Text © 2011 Carlo Kopp, Peter Goon
Elevated head on view of Chengdu prototype, December, 2010 (Chinese Internet).
In late December, 2010, imagery of what is claimed to be China's new stealth fighter has emerged on a range of Chinese Internet sites.
There have been no official Chinese disclosures as yet, so many of the claims about the aircraft appearing in the media may only be speculation presented as fact.
The aircraft may be a technology demonstrator or a prototype for a mass production fighter aircraft. The latter is however much more likely, given that the Deputy Chief of Air Staff PLA-AF Gen. He Weirong claimed an IOC between 2017 and 2019, in a November, 2009, public disclosurei.
The following is a preliminary assessment only and subject to revision. APA will produce a more complete assessment at a future date, once more technical material and the detailed analysis of same becomes available.
The J-XX/J-20 is a large fighter, similar in size to an F-111 (Chinese Internet).
|Above, below: Histograms of distances between PLA-AF and PLA-N fixed basing along the eastern seaboard of mainland China and US airfields at Kadena AFB on Okinawa and Andersen AFB on Guam. The J-XX/J-20 is well sized to hold both of these bases at risk (Kopp, 2005).|
The size of the J-XX/J-20 airframe, and the self evident focus on supersonic persistence, suggests, at a minimum, an intention to provide a long range interceptor for anti-access operations in the Second Island Chain geography. It is likely any production design J-XX/J-20 will incorporate an aerial refuelling probe to further extend its large operating radius.
A stealthy, supercruising, long range interceptor would provide the PLA-AF with the capability to penetrate an opposing IADS to destroy assets like E-3 AWACS, RC-135V/W Rivet Joint, other ISR systems, and importantly, Air Force and Navy tankers. This would significantly complicate if not close down air operations from Andersen AFB and fixed basing in the Ryukyu chain, Japanese main islands, and Korean peninsula, during the opening phase of any contingency.
Naval task forces structured around CVBGs and operating within the 1,000 NMI plus radius of the J-XX/J-20 would be at significant risk of rapidly losing their E-2C/D AEW&C and EA-18G Growler Electronic Attack coverage during the opening phase of any contingency.
Any notion that an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter or F/A-18E/F Super Hornet will be capable of competing against this Chengdu design in air combat, let alone penetrate airspace defended by this fighter, would be simply absurd. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet are both aerodynamically and kinematically quite inferior to the as presented J-XX/J-20 design, and even the shape based VLO capability in the J-XX/J-20, as presented, will effectively neutralise any sensor advantage either type might possess against earlier Russian and Chinese fighter designs.
The J-XX/J-20 design could be employed as a penetrating strike aircraft, in the combat radius class of the F-111 or Su-34 Fullback, if equipped with internal guided bombs, such as the Luoyang/CASC LT-3 Laser / Satellite Aided Inertially Guided Bomb, the FT-1, FT-2, FT-3, FT-4, FT-5 and LS-6 series Satellite Aided Inertially Guided Bombs. These are Chinese analogues to the US JDAM, some including glide wing kits modelled on the JDAM-ER. CASC displayed compact 250 lb and 125 lb variants of the LS-6 at Zhuhai in 2010, these derivative weapons being direct analogues to the US GBU-39/B Small Diameter Bomb, currently being integrated on the F-22A Raptorii.
A mature J-XX/J-20, with a full strike capability, would be a direct one-for-one equivalent to the proposed dual role FB-22A, which was championed by Dr. James G. Roche during his tenure as SecAF, until 2005iii.
The PLA-AF has not disclosed as yet intended production quantities. The stated IOC of the J-XX/J-20 directly aligns with the retirement date of the second tranche of Su-27SK Flanker B and first tranche of Su-30MKK Flanker G currently in operational service. It is a reasonable conclusion that the J-XX/J-20 is intended as an eventual replacement for PLA-AF Flanker B/G and later PLA-N shore based Su-30MK2 Flanker G long range multirole fighters. If the J-XX/J-20 is intended to directly replace PLA Flankers, numbers in the order of 400 – 500 aircraft are credible.
CASC displayed compact 250 lb and 125 lb variants of the LS-6 at Zhuhai in 2010, these derivative weapons being direct analogues to the US GBU-39/B Small Diameter Bomb (© 2011 Air Power Australia).
i L.C. Russell Hsiao, CHINA’S FIFTH-GENERATION FIGHTERS AND THE CHANGING STRATEGIC BALANCE, CHINA BRIEF, VOLUME IX, ISSUE 23, NOVEMBER 19, 2009, Jamestown Foundation, URI:http://www.jamestown.org/uploads/media/cb_009_64.pdf.
iv Bill Sweetman, China's Stealth Striker, Defence Technology International, 27th December, 2010, URI: http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/blogs/defense/index.jsp?plckController=Blog&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&newspaperUserId=27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7&plckPostId=Blog%3a27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7Post%3acaf36660-d425-4fbc-a284-008017b2b444&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest
v Bill Sweetman, J-20 - Denial Is Not An Option, Defence Technology International, 28th December, 2010, URI: http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/blogs/defense/index.jsp?plckController=Blog&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&newspaperUserId=27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7&plckPostId=Blog%3a27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7Post%3a1a18ec63-5bf5-471c-9997-9f0bd783d131&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest
vi Kopp C., People's Liberation Army Air Force and Naval Air Arm Air Base Infrastructure, Technical Report APA-TR-2007-0103, URI: http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-PLA-AFBs.html
viii Mills C.L., What China's New J-20 Stealth Fighter Means for the F-35 JSF and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, APA NOTAM #69, 31/12/2010, URI: http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-NOTAM-311210-1.html
(All imagery via Chinese Internet)
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