Tag Archives: aviation

Chengdu J-20

4 Sep

The J-20 is a Chinese built, 5th generation, stealth, twin engine jet fighter prototype developed by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. It began testing sometime in late 2010 and is expected to enter service in 2017-2019. Development began with the aircraft in Project 718 during the late 1990’s and won endorsement in a 2008 competition against Shenyang.

There is currently little information available regarding the J-20 but there are numerous observations being made. The aircraft is noticeably larger and heavier than other comparable aircraft like the F-22 and Su-50 which means it is capable of carrying more fuel and heavier payloads. It is believed, to have a lower supercruise speed but with a greater range, and less agile than other 5th generation fighters. It is widely believed that some form of cyber espionage aided in the development of the plane. There are numerous reports of Chinese hackers attacking weapons developers such as Lockheed Martin, gaining terabytes of sensitive data.

It’s been fitted with a state of the art fly-by-wire system that’s been fully integrated with engine and fire-control systems. The aircraft features a fully glass cockpit with LCD displays and a holographic HUD which were previously tested on older Chinese jets. The J-20 has a large belly weapons bay capable of storing short and long range air-to-air missiles and two small lateral bays for short range rockets or missiles.

The J-20’s stealth features have been a source of considerable debate. Some defense analysts say that it’s shape is far better than comparable aircraft while others say that it’s worse. Some, in particular Kanwa Andrew Chan, editor-in-chief of Hong Kong Military News Agency, called the J-20 a 4+ generation fighter similar to the F/A-18 Super Hornet due to several shortcomings. Many agree that some parts of the design will make it difficult to remain stealthy from all directions. The aircraft’s role, rather than operating as a dog fighter, is likely to be as a heavy interceptor, used to destroy enemy AWACS. Due to it’s low thrust to weight ratio and low agility it’s designed more for range and speed but it’s unlikely that China will be able to develop the deep strike radar necessary to detect command and control planes or advanced stealthy aircraft so the J-20 will likely be relegated to a ground attack role.

It’s been speculated that the J-20 is a project designed to see how far the technological boundaries can be pushed like with the F-22 Raptor. However, it’s practical uses are undeniable. China’s major military competitor, the US, lacks sufficient bases capable of supporting the F-22 in the area to counter any attacks and its allies in the region have yet to deploy their own 5th gen fighters although they are in development by India, Japan and South Korea.

China faces several challenges in the J-20’s development. The most critical issue at present is developing a high tech industry capable of churning out the required parts, especially high performance jet engines. Until then they will be forced to import parts from Russia or use substandard engines from other aircraft. More updates will follow as new information becomes available.

Number Built: 2 (September 2011)

Unit Cost: $110,000,000 (estimated)

Available Characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 70 ft (21.26 m)
  • Wingspan: 42 ft (12.88 m)
  • Height: 4.45m (14.6 ft)
  • Wing area: 630 ft^2 ()
  • Max takeoff weight: 66,000–80,000 lb (34,000 – 37,000 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × 117S and WS-10G turbofans (prototypes); WS-15 (production) turbofans
    • Dry thrust: Unknown () each
    • Thrust with afterburner: 31,900 lb (117S); 32,845 (WS-10G); 40,500 (WS-15) (142 kN for 117S; 155 kN for WS-10G; 180 kN for WS-15) each
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