October 5, 2015

J-20 stealth fighter doesn't qualify as fifth-generation: Kanwa

Without a sufficiently powerful and reliable engine, China's Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter which conducted its first test flight in 2011 cannot be counted as a fifth-generation fighter yet, the Kanwa Defense Review, a Chinese-language military magazine based in Canada, concluded in its October issue.
Military aviation experts cited by Kanwa said the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group is still fitting J-20 prototypes with the Russian-built AL-31F or domestic WS-10 engines designed for fourth-generation fighters like the Russian Su-27 and Chinese J-10.
Because the J-20 cannot achieve supersonic flight orsupermaneuverable performance with either of these engines, the aircraft does not qualify as a fifth-generation fighter despite its stealth capability, the article said. Kanwa said the J-20 may go into official production next year. Comparing likely production numbers to the J-10, the multirole fighter also produced by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group, Kanwa noted that between 14 and 18 J-10 fighters are produced annually. Only a very small number of J-20 fighters will be produced during the early stages but the number of J-20s produced each year will eventually be match the J-10, the piece said.
A Chinese expert told Kanwa however that it will be a miracle in aviation history if J-20 can enter service with the PLA Air Force in 2016.The expert said it took Lockheed Martin 16 years to put the F-22 Raptor into service after the aircraft's first flight in 1998. It spent another 15 years to have F-35 Lighting II ready for service. Russia will put its T-50 stealth fighter into service next year after its first flight in 2010. If China can get the J-20 ready for action by next year, it will set a record by achieving the feat in just five years. But Kanwa's analysis would seem to suggest this might be a goal too far.


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