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Fighter J-20: China sensation or a remake of the Soviet legacy
Material posted: Publication date: 02-11-2016
The club of the countries – owners of the fifth generation fighter jets arrived. Along with American and Russian planes their view on advanced aircraft has demonstrated, and China. On just presented jet fighter J-20 are pinned great hopes, but, in fact, this aircraft is the hallmark of the air force of China and the Chinese defense industry.

From a drawing to a private school

At the Airshow China -2016 in Zhuhai, started on 1 November, China introduced the public to the fifth generation fighter J-20. And although rumors, speculation and analysis of data on this fighter were published in the press and specialized publications for many years, the demonstration flights of J-20 has proved the main thing: work on creating Russian fifth-generation aircraft in China has never stopped.

Despite the fact that creating your own modern fighter –it is extremely difficult and expensive, the Chinese military and industry along with the modernization of the existing models of aircraft, decided to focus on creating high-quality new product. However, the choice in favor of the new does not mean that he has already developed and implemented technology to the Chinese aeronautical engineers decided to give up.

However, the concept of using worked solutions to the fourth generation, which Chinese engineers are trying to combine with the requirements of the fifth-generation aircraft, reveals a whole heap of problems. These include the design and development of hardware and software of the on-Board systems, integration of the fighter as a combat unit in the control system, as well as creating your own engines, means of protection and weapons.

Experience and problems

Despite the fact that the absence of a fully domestic fighter, developed from scratch, has long been the subject of debate among Chinese military and experts to create a fifth generation fighter in China, decided with an eye to the past. For anybody not a secret that China has often copied foreign military equipment and adapting the best ready-made solution to suit your needs. Examples of this approach – fighter J-11, which is almost an exact copy of the su-27 carrier-based fighter J-15.

However, to create a fifth generation fighter operating at other speeds, altitudes and in other modes, simply copying already existing solutions and their refinement did not fit. However, the MIC of the PRC when you create a fighter fifth generation took the unusual appointment, which included the implementation of already proven solutions and develop new at the same time.

Given that promising military technologies no country in the world for free and willingly share will not be, Chinese engineers decided to create their own fighter using technological solutions to all projects in this area simultaneously. The main difficulty for the defense industry of China, aviation experts of which have never been on the top of the art to build aircraft, was the process of combination of different design solutions and schemes. For example, the basis of the aircraft was taken by the glider, made by aerodynamic configuration "duck".

Earlier this scheme was created promising multipurpose fighter MiG MFI. Although experienced prototype MiG MFI was designed to decrease radar signature and increased maneuverability, a Chinese plane has a number of key elements that, on the contrary, increase the "illumination" of the J-20 on the overview screens of radar and complicate management in the maximum modes.

"Despite the fact that used in the airframe design is quite original, it is believed that the use of such aerodynamic configuration significantly increases the radar signature. It should be noted also that not a single foreign fighter with such a scheme is not being used," analyses the history of the creation of the J-20 military expert Vasily Kashin.

If you omit the borrowing not the most successful for the fifth generation fighter configuration and how it is implemented in the Chinese fighter, then you may find that individual components and assemblies are also built with the already proven technologies or designed by engineers not in a good way. Design of large all-moving canards significantly increases the radar signature and the resistance of the air, affecting the range.

Individual components of the aircraft such as air intakes, Windows and the "light" of the cockpit and the bow, much like the American perspective fighter of the fifth generation F-35. In addition, there is an impact on the layout of the J-20 us F-22: the huge air intakes located under the same angle. That the engineers from China has collected for his fighter parts and assemblies from around the world, I'm sure and military commentator Viktor Baranets.

"Copying other people's products is a national tradition of China. The Chinese represent this car as a sensation, foreign experts give a calm assessment of this product. I'm pretty sure that on the tactical and technical characteristics this machine is far behind from American, and Russian counterparts", – summed up the military columnist.

The Russian "heart"

Despite the fact that the Chinese aircraft manufacturers are more likely on the first rung of the ladder leading to the possession of the fifth-generation fighter, its main task of engine manufacturers from China not decided so far. For several years, past from the beginning of development, they are unable to build a complete aircraft engine for this aircraft, and demonstration flights of the J-20 took place thanks to the installation in the fighter of the Russian engine AL-31ФН. Besides, many questions remain for avionics.

"The situation from AFAR for RLS are still quite unclear. They have it, but what is its performance and characteristics are unknown. So, to say that it is fully functional and effective, it is too early," – said in an interview with TV channel "Zvezda" military expert, chief editor of the magazine "arms Export" Andrey Frolov.

Given that the modern engine and efficient radar for the fifth-generation fighter is still the heart and eyes of man, it can be concluded that fly the Chinese J-20 will soon be able to only with the Russian "heart". With regard to its own fifth-generation engine WS-15, it is still not ready, and, despite the great interest and the desire to create their own "heart" for the fighter, no breakthrough in this direction at the moment not expected.

Experts point out that the previous engine of its own design WS-10A, which some experts have suggested Chinese fifth generation for mass use in these jets cannot be used. Theoretically, the problem could solve another in-house development engine WS-10G with the increased indicators of thrust. However, experts explain that the reliability and service life of this engine leaves much to be desired and in the use of the serial fighter can not be applied.

Despite this, the Chinese company Shenyang Aircraft Corporation almost simultaneously with the J-20 creates a multi-purpose fighter of the fifth generation J-31. This machine is significantly lighter J-20, but the same as the heavier "brother", flying on Russian engines RD-93. Using Russian-built engines, as well as extensive introduction of composites and other lightweight materials allow aircraft J-31 "ride" a combat radius of 1250 kilometers and can reach speeds of about 1.6 M.

It is planned to replace the Russian engines on the domestic WS-13A, however, the practical implementation of this idea in China had greater difficulty. And although the authorities are confident that the J-20 and J-31 will reduce the backlog from the aviation technology of the United States, the Chinese fighter of the fifth generation almost all key indicators (power to weight ratio, maneuverability, stealth) behind the Russian su-30, su-35, T-50 and American F-22. Among other things, the big issues are the location, composition and quality of missile armament of these aircraft.

According to experts, the fifth generation definitely will need a modified missiles near, middle and far range, and China in this direction also necessary to work seriously. If the Chinese aircraft manufacturers will bring the story of the J-20 and J-31 up to serial production and will create its own (or will enter into a strategic agreement to supply Russian) engines, the Chinese fifth generation fighter will fully compare to the competition on the aggregate quality, including the cost of the program and production of each aircraft.

Strategic insurance

Due to the fact that the programme for the creation and production of its own fifth generation fighter aircraft Chinese aircraft manufacturers are faced with serious difficulties, the Chinese authorities in their usual manner decided to be safe and for your own peace of mind and for the sake of national security has signed a contract with Russia for the supply of ultra-modern su-35. It is the supply of su-35 will enable China to reduce the gap with the US and enhance the effectiveness of their own aircraft in the troubled Pacific region.

"The American experience with the F-22 and F-35 shows that from the time of admission to the troops to reach combat readiness of these aircraft are. Therefore, the main fighting force, air force and naval aviation in the medium term will still have a 4++ generation aircraft, including platform T-10 (that is, derived from su-27)", – says Vasily Kashin.

Purchase of su-35 will also allow the PLA air force make the most of their aircraft and, if necessary, to repel... of the American deck fighter F/A-18, because from the point of view of the technical capabilities of Chinese aircraft can have the most fierce resistance of the American carrier-based fighters. "The Chinese J-10B, J-11B, J-16, you can safely go into battle against F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and win. The question is pulling tactics and combat training to the American level," added Cashin.

Expert statements confirm the old statement of aviation professionals that direct confrontation of aircraft of the fifth generation has not yet begun and all the work in the sky in the next few years will carry the fighters of the 4++ generation. However, China's effort to create its own "five" as soon as possible is logical: openly hostile behavior of the U.S. armed forces "on the doorstep" causes to err, and in any case to create an effective and relatively inexpensive means of resistance.

In this context, the creation of a fifth generation fighter with the combat radius of two thousand miles seems a task, it meets the national security interests of China. With regard to the expert evaluations, aviation experts believe that the fate of the Chinese fighter J-20 and J-31 will be difficult and long. J-20 to achieve a given technological level needs to be lighter and more maneuverable, but without major changes in the airframe and own powerful engine to achieve high speed performance is obtained in practice will be extremely difficult.

About the export potential of both machines, and how they correspond to characteristics of the fifth generation fighter, to say extremely difficult. The main difficulty of Chinese engineers is the lack of private aviation-engineering school and research experience and the decision to collect "with each fighter a little bit" is fraught with the fact that under the implementation of the tasks this machine may not be suitable. Looking at J-20 and J-31, it is possible to judge that their own style and direction in the creation of aviation equipment in China in found, and this means that the Chinese aircraft manufacturers still have a long years of hard work.

In fact, the Chinese military-industrial complex is facing more than a dozen R & d on the use of aviation materials, calculations of the most optimal configuration of the airframe, issues of reducing the radar visibility and to top it all off creating their own aircraft engines. Only when all the conditions of the Chinese fighters will rise in line with the Russian and American fifth-generation aircraft and will begin to perform tasks for which created.

Dmitry Yurov


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