In the field of defense, Chengdu J-20 is a concrete testament to China’s ambitions
For decades, China has been trying to find ways to lower its power and reassure other nations, especially the United States, of intentions it considers harmless. But the actions China has been taking in the past two decades reflect the essence of its ambition. Although China does not want to occupy the US leadership position, Beijing’s real goal is almost the same.
In the Indo-Pacific region, China wants to dominate completely; they want to push the United States out and become the region’s political, economic, and military hegemonic. On a global scale, although China seems to accept America’s leading position, Beijing wants to be strong enough to oppose Washington when necessary.
In the field of defense, Chengdu J-20 is a concrete testament to China’s ambitions. For the Chinese, J-20 is more than pride, the aircraft is a counterweight with stealthy fifth-generation fighters from the US and Russia.
The J-20 is advertised as not inferior to the US F-22 and F-35 or the Russian Su-57, however, many international military experts are still skeptical about the true capabilities of this aircraft. China still has many difficulties in engine manufacturing technology and has to temporarily use Russian-made engines, making the J-20’s combat capability significantly limited, affecting its stealth and maneuverability.
The Chinese Air Force currently has about 2,500 aircraft, including 1,700 fighters, tactical bombers, and multi-role strike aircraft, making it the third largest air force in the world. The Chinese are proud of the J-20 as a completely domestically produced fifth generation fighter. A single-seat supersonic fighter jet, twin engines, operating in all weather conditions.
J-20 is described as being capable of precision attack, it was born from the J-XX program of the 1990s. Making its first public appearance in November 2016 at the Zhuhai air show, J-20 was promoted as being able to rival the most modern stealth fighters of the United States.
At the end of 2017, though not really completed, China rushed to put J-20 into service, in response to the US deployment of F-35 fighters to the Asia-Pacific region, as well as South Korea and Japan receiving the first F-35A aircraft.
The Pentagon has argued that the J-20 has not yet reached full combat readiness because only a small number of aircraft have been put into service for testing and training. Most recently, in July 2019, J-20 fighter jets was put into service by China and deployed to the Eastern Theater Command, a move that was supposed to deter the Taiwanese government. China claims that the J-20 designs have been finalized, and are ready for mass production and combat readiness.
From the first photos of Chinese stealth fighters that appeared in 2010, the design of the J-20 appears to be a mixture of Lockheed F-22 Raptor and Mikoyan Project 1.44 experimental aircraft. J-20 has a length of 20.4m, wingspan of 15.5m, wing area of 78 square meters.
The Chinese fighter jet has an empty weight of more than 19 tons while the maximum takeoff weight is 37 tons. Compared to the US F-22 or Russian Su-57, the J-20 is slightly larger in size. The overall design is a canard-delta configuration, a delta-wing with a pointed nose similar to the American F-22, the fuselage blended with low radar cross section and large twin tails.
The cockpit is extremely impressive with frameless canopy, giving pilots a view on all sides and creating a great overall aerodynamics. J-20 has a long and wide fuselage, right behind the cockpit is the low observatory intakes. Canards are located along the front of the fuselage and serve to provide improved vortex lift for the airframe.
Similarly, the use of main wing assemblies in combination with these canards to help improve the lift. The engines were buried deep inside the middle and behind the fuselage with the usual circular engine exhaust. The tail of the aircraft has two outward facing fins, there are two small ventral fins near the trailing edge of the main wing.
The aircraft will be fitted with a tricycle-type landing gear comprising a single wheeled nose gear leg and two single wheeled main gear legs. The nose gear will drawback into the cockpit floor upon take-off, while the main gear retract forward into the fuselage section.
In the design of the J-20, stealth plays an important role, the aircraft is covered with a stealth coating, along with a new low-observable intake. The nose and canopies of the J-20 themselves use the same stealth design similar to the F-22, providing similar performance characteristics in a proven design.
The aircraft’s side and axi-symmetric engine nozzles may expose the aircraft to radar. The original prototype was powered by a WS-10G engine equipped with various jagged-edge nozzles and tiles for greater stealth. Plasma technology is also used in various exposed moving joints of the vertical tail fins and forward canards.
The Chinese fighter jet has two large internal weapon bays for long-range air-to-air missiles and two small sidebays for short-range air-to-air missiles. Missiles are stored in these weapon bays to reduce the cross section of the radar. It also has a large fuel tank for long-range missions, it can also carry more fuel and weapons than the US F-22 Raptor.
The J-20 will be armed with internal cannon for close range combat missions. It is also expected to be equipped with air to surface missiles, anti-radiation missiles, laser-guided bombs and drop bombs.
The internal weapon bays can carry air to air missiles such as PL-10, PL-12, PL-15, PL-21 and LS-6 Precision-guided bomb. It also has 4 external hard points to carry drop tanks.
The J-20 fighter was originally intended to be equipped with a WS-15 engine designed specifically for stealth. However, immediately after being put to the test, the WS-15 engine showed low reliability when constantly having problems, even exploding in 2015.
So far, Chinese engineers have not been able to overcome this problem. Currently the J-20 squadron in the Chinese air force is fitted with modified WS-10B engines from the WS-10 model for fourth generation fighters such as J-10 and J-11. This was considered a temporary solution before China began importing large quantities of Russian AL-31F engines.
The J-20 is expected to have a top speed of Mach 2+, a range of 6,000 km while a combat range of 2,000 km and a service ceiling of 20,000 m.
The fact that China does not own an engine with similar features makes the J-20 unable to maintain stealth when having to turn on the afterburner to reach supersonic speed. Beijing had urged Moscow to sell them more modern engines, but it was rejected, because Russia worried China would copy them as weapons in the past.
Beijing spent about $ 23.7 billion to develop modern engines between 2010 and 2015. Chinese media once claimed that the WS-15 engine was as efficient as the US F119 engine, but this is hard to come true. Chinese jet engines are still facing a series of problems. This will be a weakness that makes it difficult for the J-20 to keep up with the US F-22 and F-35 in potential wars.
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