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Chengdu J-20 enters service with the PLAAF
October 16, 2017
Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) J-20. Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons

Chengdu J-20 enters service with the PLAAF

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) officially inducted the J-20, developed and produced by the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG). This was announced by Wu Qian, a spokesperson of China’s Ministry of National Defence on Thursday, September 26.

China the first non-Western (and non-U.S.-ally) power to fully induct a 5th-generation fighter. In turn, the J-20 is also the first operational non-American 5th-generation fighter. It is not known how many J-20s the PLAAF intends to induct, but currently and in the near future, it is unlikely factor significantly in the PLAAF.

The mainstay fighters of the PLAAF – i.e. Chengdu J-10 and Shenyang J-11 – are being procured in numbers and will utilize next-generation subsystems, such as active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radars. The advancement of these platforms and their proliferation in the PLAAF fleet will be of greater importance.

Analysts (The National Interest) expect that the J-20 will begin its service by serving complementary roles in the PLAAF fleet, such as aggressor training for mainstay fighters and field testing for China’s emerging technologies (e.g. stealth materials and new electronics and munitions).

However, the J-20 is evidently progressing. Besides official induction with the PLAAF, China appears to be making headway in domestic engine development for the J-20. In September, Chinese observers spotted a J-20 prototype seemingly fitted with indigenously produced WS-10 turbofan engines (East Pendulum).

The Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) is developing a smaller and lower-cost 5th-generation fighter in the form of the FC-31. In December 2016, an improved FC-31 prototype conducted its maiden test flight, and a third prototype is rumored to be under development.

The FC-31 is being positioned for both domestic use and export. At the 2015 Dubai Air Show, the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) had promised that FC-31 buyers could begin receiving their fighters (at Initial Operating Capability) in 2022-2023 (Aviation Week). The F-35 notwithstanding, the FC-31 has progressed the furthest among export-oriented medium-weight 5th-generation fighters.

  • Jigsaw

    I’m sure it will be a major addition for PLAAF’s drive for self sufficiency and advanced needs but for some reason it’s still not a truly impressive product at this point for being half baked. I think the next design will be much more mature. This one doesn’t really qualify to be a true 5th gen fighter. No supercruise. No all aspect stealth and those awkward canards trying to balance the gravity on this huge truck. Hopefully the sensors make up for its design shortcomings. I hear there’s a 4K screen inside for the pilot though : )

    • Syed Arbab Shah

      It’s the closest thing to a 5 th generation fighter that Pakistan can get.

      But do you think that Pakistan has any chance of getting this a/c, if at all, in the next 3-4 years?…. Keeping in mind that a 4.5 generation a/c can bring PAF only at par with IAF qualitatively but IAF will still retain quantitative superiority in this 4.5 generation class.

      • Steve

        We probably ought to go for 3 squadrons of J-31 once we see what the exportable product finally looks like, but also hedge our bets and get into developing TF-X. It may end up being a better product with UK involved, and serve us for 30 years. Is the plan not to call that ‘indigenous’ once we co-develop. It’s not a credible plan to produce 5th gen without producing 4th gen first, without heavy Turkish (UK) or Chinese involvement.

  • pallab hazarika

    Mig 1.44

    • bridgebuilder78

      Mig 1.44 has conventional vertical stabilizers with rudders, underslung intake without DSI, not to mention a non-stealth-optimized airframe, and its avionics are from the stone age. J-20, on the other hand, has side intakes featuring DSI, all-moving vertical stabilizers, leading-edge extensions, lifting-body design, an airframe that is stealth-optimized both in shaping and surface treatment, AESA radar, flight-by-light, EOTS, HMS, etc. Mig 1.44 is a mere technology demonstrator. J-20 is a frontline fighter already in service. The difference between Mig 1.44 and J-20 is like the difference between India and China: they are completely different entities, with the former lagging hopelessly behind the latter. But, but, but, I digress. India’s FGFA is far superior to both the Mig 1.44 and the J-20. In fact, it’s vastly superior to the F-22 and F-35 as well. The Indian FGFA is so completely stealthy that it’s impossible to be located because it doesn’t exist… and it never will.

      • Joseph

        The published front RCS of T-50(Su-57 now) is 0.4m2 according a published Russian documentary and various other sources. Front RCS of both F-22 and J-20 are said to be around 0.01m2. Are you sure FGFA would be stealthy enough compare to it’s 5th generation peers?

    • Syed Arbab Shah

      If copying someone makes you stronger specially against those who threaten your territorial integrity, then SO BE IT 😛

      If you think it’s a copy, then you can easily make it yourself… Can’t you genius?

  • Syed Arbab Shah

    PAF was gifted a model of J 20 during the Shaheen 6 exercises.

    Is there any chance, PAF might get a downgraded version of J 20 in the next 3-4 years?

  • Khan Majeed

    China has done an awesome job. In a relatively short period and in a way J-20 is first Chinese modern fighter, it is already the best in the World. Future versions will beat anything coming out of Russia and USA.

    • Augustine

      @Khan, I dont understand you please, is this a joke or you mean it? What is the source of your information that J-20 is the best FGA in the world? USAF F-22 Raptor is the best fighter jet in the world. French Rafale is second best, USN F-18 Advanced Super Hornet is third best, until Russian Su-35 gets an AESA radar to beat the Rafale and Advanced Super Hornet. Fourth position is a close contest between European Typhoon, Swedish Gripen E, American F-16 Viper. When American F-35 Lightning is fully operational with full capabilities it will join F-22 as the two best fighter jets in the world. Russian Su-57 stealth jet has unknown capabilities, still under development but with potential to match F-22 and F-35 if Sukhoi applies the maximum of advanced technology available to Russian aerospace and aviation technology.

      • Khan Majeed

        @Augustine …. and what is your source ? The Chinese had hacked the design of the fighters you have mentioned and made J-20 better.

        • Augustine

          China? The engine in the J-20 is made in Russia, China cannot make reliable jet engines, Pakistan ran away from the China made engine for JF-17 and chose the 30 year old Russian engine instead. What genuine proof do you have that China has hacked secrets of F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightening, Rafale, Gripen, Typhoon, F-16 Viper, F-18 Advanced Super Hornet? China has hacked all those and still cannot make reliable engine for ordinary small JF-17 Thunder? You are a very funny man….I laugh and roll on the floor.

          • Joseph

            Recent news is the production version of J-20 is using indigenous WS-10, though probably not a lot better than the Russian AL-31F.

            I also don’t believe China hacked those secret technologies, otherwise they would have built better engines by now. Blaming China is like blaming Russia in the past, it is kind of standard excuse to cover up any kind of major screw up and incompetence.

            Design and developing turbofan engines apparently is a very slow process, take few decades at least. That is probably the most difficult part to catch up in term of technology.

            India received technology transfer of F404 engine due to Tejas, also technology transfer of AL-31F from Russia, but still India has no working domestic turbofan engine. From what I understand Kaveri has been in development forever, but no sign it is ready to be used.

          • Nate

            hacking your enemies and finding out how they did something is less than half the battle.
            Developing the necessary industries to be able to manufacture what you see your opponents doing is monumental. USA and European countries have been developing the necessary industries for over 100 years, thats not an exaggeration. Look up for yourself the necessary technologies that went into making working Jets in Nazi Germany in the 1940’s and you’ll get the barest glimpse of how much catching up China has to do before it can reliably produce anything made in the west. They have a long ways to go.

      • Joseph

        According to this: http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-2011-03.html J-20’s front stealth is comparable to F-22, could even be better due to DSI inlet. F-22 was not equipped with IRST, it’s radar is also aged technology, so it might not be able to beat J-20 in a BVR fight. J-20’s rear stealth is bad but that is only a problem when you want to use it to do deep strike in enemy territory (In other words, an invasion, so for US rear stealth is critical), not a problem when you just try to defend your air space or take down enemy radar in a distance.

        • Augustine

          That ausairpower info is outdated. Developmental testers at Edwards Air Force Base in California completed testing on F-22 Raptor’s Increment 3.2B upgrade, its a fantastic new package for all F-22 jets starting 2017 ending 2019. Next is 6 upgrade for 2020 ending 2022. The F-22 Raptor of today is not same as 1990s when it entered service, USAF is always upgrading jets, your opinion is like someone saying F-16 is outdated because the F-16s that defeated Iraq and Serbia are jets built in 1970s. Todays year 2017 F-16 Viper is like iPhone 10 while the 1990 F-16 that killed MiG-29 is like Nokia 3310. No jet fighter in this world can survive against F-22 Raptor. The Chinese J-20 was copied from the ancient USAF F-111 stealth jet retired long ago. China is behind Russia in stealth, and Russia is behind USA in stealth tech as at 2017. Chinese engines are inferior, the J-20 with Chinese engine is worse than if they use Russian engine. Dont waste your money on J-20, there is a reason PAF ran away from Chinese engines offered for JF-17 Thunder.

          • Joseph

            Other than a lot of baseless biases there are hardly any facts in your comments. I am aware of F-22 mid-life upgrade, but I don’t think radar has been changed. There is still no IRST. F-22 still can only talk to F-22, but it seems now it can receive information from other planes including F-35s though link 16 due to software update.

            Chinese WS-10B used on J-20 is supposed to be slightly better than AL-31F, with slightly higher thrust and slightly longer service life, but I think it is still not as good as 117S. I bet that is why China bought Su-35, to get access to 117S engine.

            It is quite understandable why PAF continue to use RD-93, Chinese WS-13E engine is a different engine but it offers no significant improvements. PAF is already familiar with RD-93 maintenance, so why bother to change.

            Nobody can buy J-20, Chinese already banned the export of the plane. They don’t have enough production capacity to fill their own orders anyway.

            In term of stealth. T-50 (Su-57) is clearly the worst of all 5th generation fighters, even Indians have been complaining, specifically about it’s stealth. The 0.4m2 front RCS is an order of magnitude worse than other 5th generation peers. But I don’t think Russians are incapable, clearly lack of fund caused it. T-50 is based on existing flanker air frame, other than internal weapon bays there were only minor changes. Unlike F-22, F-35 and J-20, it was not designed from ground up for stealth.

          • Augustine

            I dont make baseless analysis, and I am biased in favour of China and Russia because am a black American man tired of white supremacists calling me Nigger. USAF F-22 Raptors have been flying in Syria this 2017 and our pilots in scan range of Russian S-300 and S-400 SAMs were not detected, no single RWR alert in many hours of Raptors flying into Putin’s best radars, no aircraft can do that in the world except F-22 and F-35. America is ahead of Russian in air superiority. USAF AESA radars will jam RuAF PESA radars on Su-35 and Su-57. IRST can detect but cannot missile lock a fast moving target, IRST locks on space area not point target. USA Navy F-18 Advanced Super Hornet jets IRST struggled to detect F-35 and the scanned stealth image was too weak to track talk less of missile lock and AAM attack. Sukhois need to be WVR to kill Raptors using HMDS, but 2017 Raptor upgrade now gives F-22 BVRAAM 5th gen missile, Su-35 is dead unless ECM suite does magic. F-22 Raptor does not need IRST to kill a Flanker that has zero stealth. F-35 has IRST. RuAF needs to catch up with USAF, the PLAAF puts China even further behind. A military tech savvy person knows Chinese jet engines are inferior to American/Russian. Pakistan would have preferred its best friend China’s engine for the next 100 JF-17s instead of the less friendly Russia, but PAF knows the Chinese engine is inferior, from bitter lessons learnt from Chinese engines in F-7 jets. Same reason Nigeria refused to go from Chinese engine in F-7P to new Chinese engine in JF-17, NAF chose Russian engine after bitter lessons from F-7NI Chinese engines.

          • Joseph

            I don’t think you know how IRST works, or it’s capacity. The thermal image of both F-22 and F-35 have been taken according to this article: https://www.businessinsider.com.au/irst-cant-stop-f-22-f-35-2016-8 and they look like “big, juicy, $150 million target”, so I bet your F-18 story came from dreams or fantasies.

            Comparing Chinese engines 40 years ago to Chinese engines today is like comparing China 40 years ago and China today, which is kind of silly.

            Like I said most of you comments were based on biases or emotions rather than facts.

          • Augustine

            @Joseph its you who does not know how IRST works, you depend on information from googled stories published by news journalists who cannot fly 1917 propeller aircraft talk less of 2017 jets. I work with NATO veteran fighter jet pilots that have fought air wars and survived. IRST does not lock missiles on moving target, it maps and tracks a space area occupied by an aircrafy emmitting engine heat. Only radars can lock on to fire and forget missiles. If you launch missle with IRST the missile must switch on radar in terminal phase guided by the launch aircraft radar via datalink. You dont know the workings of guided missile technology, you keep arguing blindly using internet journalists news stories and refuse to be corrected because of personal pride. If you ever go to air war with your google search ideas, even a MiG-21 will shoot you down in your J-20 stealth jet. Its a free world, they say ignorance is bliss….sweet to the soul of those who love it.

          • Joseph

            Also nobody knows the exact RCS of both F-22 and J-20. They are not published and both ware RCS magnifiers when they fly. Existing stealth information is based on 3D models of both planes without taking into account of radiation absorbent material. These analysis puts RCS of both F-22 and J-20 RCS at around 0.01m2.

            Of course after applying RAM, RCS of these planes would be smaller.

            Exact stealth capabilities of both J-20 and F-22 are myth. But most published materials indicate they are stealthier than F-35, and of course T-50.

          • Jigsaw

            I find your views more realistic. And i guess we can safely say that Chinese are at least a decade (in many areas 2+ decades) behind Americans, Russians, and even Europeans in military tech but they’re trying to close the gap all the time. While people are still trying to compare J-20 with F-22, in a few years time, Americans will unveil their super intelligent(/machine learning), 6th gen machines capable of carrying out combat from the space and firing laser weapons – while Russians will still be toying with T-50 and Chinese trying to improve on J-20. I do however see Chinese most rapidly catching on with Americans, overall.

  • Faisal

    J-20 is one of those expansive toys that are mostly there to set a trend. Just like first mobile phone in every new generation is expensive and doesn’t always live up to expectation then company learns from it and its second model is much better. I think J-20s learnings will help solidify J-31’s design. We are pretty much looking at 10-15 years from now before it can enter PAF service.
    If you ask for my opinion I would give a Mirage ROSE kind of solution. Buy J-11s in bulk. Buy J-10s in bulk. Put good AESA radars on them. Buy them from Turkey, South Africa or any other reputable country that is willing to sell it. Create your own custom solution. Buying state of the art American is not going to happen. You depend on quality, and you wont have enough to eat and live. How Iran was able to survive against Israel and others for so many years?

    • Nate

      Sorry, you speak from much ignorance.
      I’ll say one thing, and the rest look up for yourself, see if you can find holes in your own nonsense.
      How Iran survived against Israel? They’re separated by over 1,000 miles, and neither has the realistic strike capabilities to conventionally attack each other. Near has the realistic assault capabilities to attack one another. If you dont understand the difference, look that up too.
      In future, do more research before posting.

  • Lasit

    The stealth detection technology is there since 1980. The WW2 era VHF Band radars can detect stealth aircrafts with a Tail. Russian have the P-14 Oborona VHF early-warning system for more than 40 years . LHM built their own VHF in 1983. It was just a matter of fact that the technology matures.

    Stealth aircrafts are meant to penetrate second tier air defence and kill the radar station. but these aircrafts are not yet matured enough to have good success against dense and modern air defense environment.

    • Jigsaw

      I suppose you don’t see a difference between WW2 radar tech vs 2017. The fundamental question with stealth has never been IF it can be detected or not; it’s WHEN it can be detected. That is all what this cat and mouse game is about.

      • Lasit

        I guess you can tell me the difference between a ww2 era wheel and 2017 era wheel.

        A knowledgeable person would have figured out that i am referring to a particular type of frequency.

        Now don’t try to argue that the wavelength also changes with time..

  • Nate

    if ww2 taught us anything, its that warfare on an industrial scale is largely governed by one thing, economic output, so if you’re talking about lacking a decisive edge one way or another, sorry, not true, India outproduces Pakistan economically at a ratio of more than 10-1 so theres no real conventional contest. Barring outside intervention, on a long enough time scale, India would crush Pakistan in a protracted conflict.
    Seeing as conventional isn’t likely to define a war between these 2 countries, its realistically a moot point who has the conventional edge.

  • Joseph

    Sorry, I misread the sarcasm. But considering the amount of money India already spent on the project and Russia’s clear lack of fund, maybe a compromise could be reached and the project might survive.

    • bridgebuilder78

      FGFA is merely a two-seater version of PAK-FA, whose development is almost complete. The Russians don’t need the Indian money for it. Back in 2010, when PAK-FA’s development was in its early days, Russia asked India for $6 billion if India chooses to participate. But as usual, India dragged its feet, so the Russians went ahead and completed PAK-FA without any Indian involvement. Now India wishes to come into the project at the last moment, pay a small fee, and asks for full-tech transfers. Russians are not stupid and told the Indians to take a hike. So here we are, India is without FGFA or any realistic program for a 5th-gen fighter. You’ve got to hand it to the Indians because they are the masters at missing every opportunity.

      • Joseph

        There is still AMCA, but considering how difficult and expensive it is to develop a 5th generation jet fighter and what happened to Tejas, I don’t know how realistic the project is.

        I guess we will find out in few years the fate of those projects.

        • bridgebuilder78

          There is no need to find out. AMCA is dead. It might be revived if India can’t find a 5th-gen fighter. Given India’s track record in developing weapons, AMCA won’t be ready in 40 years, assuming it will be ready at all.

      • Lasit

        partly agree with on the cost thing and other issues with the project. the bigger fact is, what Russians have managed to do without Indian money (we paid them $300 million already ) is a to create a fleet of 6 flying prototypes.

        what they can’t do without Indian money is to get the prototype to production mode. there is no way with its economic condition, Russians can afford a large number of PAK-FA (the air force is not keen on more than 40 samples) in its current production cost.what they need is a big order from another client, so that they can set up a dedicated production line and bring down the per unit cost. that’s where they need India. the only other country, who could have afforded its was China, but they already have a their own products.

        Now the choice for the Russians is between sharing the tech with Indians or scrape the project. Indians are hoping that the former happens first. Now its a matter of who blinks first

        • bridgebuilder78

          Within two to three years, new Russia to China pipelines will be finished, and they are scheduled to transfer over $850 billion worth of oil and natural gas over the next 20 years. The Russians won’t be needing India’s money.

  • Lasit

    You started with your usual rant.. But you took a bad example of Tata. Tata’s annual revenue is close to half of Pakistan’s GDP

    • Jigsaw

      It really not about what TATA’s revenue is. For all the world sees, it’s still carrying Tejas around on parades. We’re talking of cutting edge radar technologies here which you religiously believe haven’t improved since WW2, and just because someone said Chinese are improving in it – really? I think you don’t need to argue and belittle others’ progress every time. It’s really a petty way of arguing. It’s alright to accept sometimes.

      • Lasit

        i will try to simplify my statement for your understanding.

        VHF wavelengths used in old radars have the tendency to get scattered and create a close to 3D wave direction. Hence it was figured out in early 80s that, any stealth fighter with a protruding surface plan can be detected with the help of this wavelengths, not by frequency reflection, but by means of lack of a reflection. MIT/DARPA with the help of LHM created a 105 feet radar in 1983 and they were able to detect a F117 from upto 400 km, and later on a B2 upto a range of 120 Km. the only challenge at that time was the size of the radar and the power supply needed to run the radar. the other problem was that, UHF and VHF wavelengths could not guide and direct a AA missile in those days due to lack of accuracy in location of the target (used to be around 1000 feet variance)

        Now there are enough UHF/VHF radars which are portable in AWACS (e.g – LHM Tracers) which can be used. couple that with a new generation AA missile like Meteor, who does not need active guidance, you can detect a Stealth aircraft and kill it …

        i can’t explain it in any simpler language

  • Frkh

    1999 F117 shot down over Serbia. Look it up.

    • Jigsaw

      Blanket statement.

      First off my statement is in reference to modern day radars and stealth tech. you’re referring to earliest gen of stealth tech with possibly no suppression of enemy radars. F-22 and F-35 do that heavily before contesting in heavy radar environment.

      That F117 did not get detected until its radar signature was revealed because of its missile bays opening.

      • Frkh

        Try detecting meteorite with RTL SDR dongles. It’s a fun hobby and will teach you a thing or two about how passive radars work. I have done this and is a lot of fun. You can even detect helicopter blades chopping g the air. The hardware costs around 50 dollars only.

  • Lasit

    point proven that stealth aircraft can be detected by radars operating in the VHF, UHF, L and S bands. it has been done as i explained

    • Jigsaw

      Your points, your proofs. Read the article and contemplate. Or just follow up with a request to HAL / IAF to stop wasting money on acquisition/so called-development of modern day stealth fighters since you’ve got it all figured out with WW2 era radars and first generation stealth jets.

      • Lasit

        You should read more carefully. My first comment stated and i quote ”Stealth aircrafts are meant to penetrate second tier air defence”

        Unfortunately for you, Pakistan falls into second tier categories, so stealth against them is very much useful.

        The whole argument was to say that stealth fighters will have limited success to penetrate air defence over say Moscow or Japan or US Airspace

  • Frkh

    Do you really believe that f117 revealed itself during a sortie at the height of active conflict?

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