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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Black Widow II vs Raptor

Did the USAF Choose the Wrong Jet?

The Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) program began in 1981 amidst fears of the increased lethality of the newest generation of Russian fighters, the Su-27 and Mig-29. Soviet integrated air defense systems made intrusion into Soviet airspace by non-stealthy aircraft like the F-15 extremely difficult. Thus, the USAF decided it needed a new generation of air superiority fighters to overcome these challenges. The Advanced Tactical Fighter program was born.

"In 1981, the Air Force developed a requirement for an Advanced Tactical Fighter as a new air superiority fighter. It would take advantage of the new technologies in fighter design on the horizon including composite materials, lightweight alloys, advanced flight control systems, higher power propulsion systems and stealth technology. Air Force leaders believed these new technologies would make aircraft like the F-15 and F-16 obsolete by the early 21st century. " - Global Security

Eventually Northrop and McDonnell Douglas teamed up to design the YF-23 for the competition while Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and General Dynamics designed the YF-22. By the time the USAF requested a proposal from Northrup in 1985, it was arguably the most experienced company (along with Lockheed) in designing low observable aircraft. Northrup had already started work on the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. McDonnell Douglas was one of the most respected names in the aerospace industry. McDonnell Douglas was responsible for the creation of some of the finest military equipment in use such as the F-15 Eagle, AH-64 Apache, and Tomahawk cruise missile. The YF-23 design reflects the immense skill of the Northrup and McDonnell Douglas design teams.

Interview with ATF test pilot Paul Metz, first pilot to fly the YF-23

Head to Head comparison YF-22 vs YF-23

Both airframes have advantages and disadvantages over one another in the case of the YF-22 and YF-23. One of the main advantages the YF-23 held over the YF-22 was that it was stealthier. But, to the extent of which its rcs is smaller is not public information. It is known that the YF-23 has a smaller rcs than .0001m^2 (40 dBSM) as that is the Raptor's frontal rcs. However, I would guess that the YF-23 was stealthier by a wide margin due to its unique tail design.

"The YF-23 was stealthier than the F-22 Raptor. The two ruddervators reduce the Radar Cross Signature of the YF-23 significantly. This is because instead of having four extremely large control surfaces on the tail, there are only two. The F-22 Raptor design utilizes the traditional configuration of two rudders, which are canted outward, and two elevators. This make the RCS larger. Another RCS reducing feature is the engines. These are mounted in nacelles in the wing that blend gracefully into the wing on the top, and form an extension of the fueslage on the bottom. The larger bottom fuselage lets it pack more missiles and other expendable weapons. The intake duct is angled up and inward to reflect radar beams and keep them from hitting the fast moving compressor face. The intake duct starts on the lower edge of the wing and moves through it onto the top of the wing. This feature can also reduce the RCS signature from a look down-shoot down radar from an aircraft flying overhead. Also reducing the RCS, is the way the leading and trailing edge of all surfaces are angled. All of the leading and trailing edges are angled the same. Therefore, the front of the right wing is parallel to the left wing's trailing edge, and the left section of the nose. For example, the leading edge of the wing is parallel to the trailing edge of the wing on the other side. " - Global Security

Because of its substantial stealth capabilities, Northrup named the YF-23 Black Widow II. The name "Grey Ghost" also become associated with the YF-23. However, this increased stealthiness came at a cost, agility.

"The YF-23 was optimized for speed, range and stealth at some expense in agility, compared to its rival. The general layout is unique and exploits much of the design technique developed in the B-2A ATB program. RCS is reduced through careful planform shaping and blending, with a unique low drag tail which conceals dorsal exhausts in troughs to reduce both RCS and IR emissions" - Air Power Australia, 1991

The YF-23 design DID NOT feature thrust vectoring as the Northrup design team did not want to add extra weight to the aircraft or increase its radar signature. (National Museum of the Air Force, 2009) Even without thrust vectoring, the YF-23 was incredibly agile as it was able to reach all of the ATF maneuverability qualifications. Something the YF-22 could not do without the aid of thrust vectoring. (Air Power Australia, 2005)

On April 23rd 1991, Secretary of the Air Force Donald Rice announced the YF-22 was the winner of the competition. So did the Air Force pick the wrong jet? To answer this question, one must understand why the YF-22 won the competition. The USAF chose the YF-22 because of its incredible maneuverability. Although the YF-23 was stealthier, the YF-22 was already incredibly stealthy relative to anything else in service. The F-22A is still the stealthiest aircraft in the USAF inventory and the stealthiest aircraft in service in all the world's air forces' for the foreseeable future. Another selling point to the YF-22 was that its design was more compatible for the Navy's own Advanced Tactical Fighter program, the NATF. However, the Navy cancelled the NATF in 1992, a year after the ATF ended.

In my opinion, the YF-22 won the competition narrowly but fairly. However, Lockheed's victory does not diminish the fact that the YF-23 is still an extraordinary and incredibly innovative airframe. I think BOTH airframes should have been utilized in a similar fashion as to what happened after the conclusion of the Lightweight Fighter program. The Lightweight Fighter program produced such outstanding jets that both of them were eventually utilized albeit the YF-17 altered. Although the YF-16 defeated the YF-17,McDonnell Douglas saw the potential in the YF-17 design and eventually designed the F/A-18 Hornet, one of the most successful naval aircraft in modern history. The F/A-18 eventually fulfilled the Navy's requirement for a new fighter. In the same way, the YF-23 can fulfill the USAF's requirement for the interim bomber program. The program called for a medium range stealth bomber operational by 2018. With some adjustments, the YF-23 could easily be suited for this role. In fact, Northrup tried just that. Unfortunately for Northrup, the DOD latter concluded that it need a bomber with a much greater range. Thus, the USAF created the Next Generation Bomber project.


On another note, this illustration shows what design changes Lockheed made from the YF-22 to the F-22A. Among the changes is a reduction from 25,000 pounds of internal fuel to closer to 21,000 pounds. (Air Power Australia, 2005)

The following image is from Defense Industry Daily

Saturday, August 13, 2011

US Navy vs PLA Navy

China's new carrier. Although its not without its fair share of problems.

Relax: China’s First Aircraft Carrier is a Piece of Junk, By David Axe

"Shi Lang will sail into a Pacific Ocean teeming with carriers. First, there are the American carriers: five nuclear-powered supercarriers home-ported in California, Washington and Japan, plus six assault ships in California and Japan. Between them, the American carriers displace no less than 700,000 tons and can carry 600 aircraft." -David Axe

Our Navy can carry twice as many aircraft at sea as all the rest of the world combined” - Robert Gates, former US Defense Secretary

Short tons
US Navy
1,197,284(11) Super Carriers
402,280 (9) Assault Ships
393,032 (54) Nuclear Powered Attack Submarines
337,500 (18) Nuclear Powered ICBM Submarines
241,472 (22) Guided Missile Cruisers
581,720 (60) Destroyers
137,760 (19) Frigates
3,241,536 204

PLA Navy
70,000 (1) Carrier
61,600 (8) Nuclear Powered Submarines
156,778 (58) Diesel-Electric Submarines
229,262 (26) Destroyers
108,612 (51) Frigates
626,252 144

The U.S Navy maintains dominance over the World's ocean with a fleet displacement as large as the next 13 nation's under it combined. I did not even include the support and resupply ships in the calculation of tonnage. If I did, it would be even larger. The US Navy operates a total of 286 ships.


The PLAAF has many "showy" items such as fighter aircraft but lacks the support and logistics units that make the rest of the force formidable. For example, China only has 10 tanker aircraft as opposed to the USAF's 477. This severely limits the range of PLAAF aircraft and restricts them from operating beyond their region. Additionally, the PLAAF lacks widespread AWACS capabilities. Meaning that their command and control capabilities as well as battle field awareness is severely hindered. The U.S has 59 as opposed to China's 4. One aspect missing from this chart I created is intelligence assets such as UAVs and reconnaissance planes. A contingent of U.S RQ-4B Global Hawks has been recently stationed in Guam. These reconnaissance aircraft can keep vigil for over a day at a time while scanning thousands of miles of ocean.
"In a world where knowledge equals power, the RQ-4 is among the most powerful aircraft ever." -David Axe

China lacks these immense intelligence gathering capabilities that the USAF posses. You can't hit what you can't see. China also lacks the unparalleled satellite coverage the U.S maintains. The US has over 400 military satellites which is four times the amount maintained by the runner up, Russia. Despite China's modernization program and and unveiling of the J-20, the PLAAF remains undeveloped and immature in comparison to the USAF. America may be in a state of decline, but the skies are firmly in our grasp.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

F-35 Maneuverability Woes

The JSF program was envisioned to create a multi-role combat aircraft capable of both air-to-ground and air interdiction missions, a "strike fighter". This emphasis in dual role capabilities is directly reflected in the F-35's airframe. The F-35 lacks the maneuverability of a purebred fighter such as the F-22A or F-15C. To judge the effectiveness of the F-35 in air-to-air combat, examples from history provide insight.

The aircraft most similar to the F-35 in service with the USAF today is the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon. The F-16 has been used to great effect in air-to-ground missions during Operation Dessert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. While the USAF has drawn blood for F-16, most of the 67 kills achieved the F-16 have been done under the command of skilled Israeli pilots. The F-16 has achieved an impressive 47-0 kill ratio under the IAF. Many of these kills were achieved because of the F-16's dazzling maneuverability. This is a key difference between the F-16 and F-35.

Although the F-16 was intended to be a dual role aircraft, one of the stringent requirements of the F-XX program was for the new aircraft to feature high trust-to-weight ratio. This resulted in the F-16 being one of the earliest fighter aircraft to enter service with a thrust-to-weight ratio exceeding 1.0. The F-16's already spectacular maneuverability was enhanced further with the implication of revolutionary fly-by-wire technology. This degree of maneuverability provides the Falcon with lethal visual range combat capabilities. In contrast, the F-35 was rated as "Double Inferior" in regards to both vertical and horizontal maneuvering capabilities relative to modern Russian and Chinese fighter aircraft such as the Su-27, Su-30, Su-35, Mig-29M and Pak Fa. In fact, the RAND report went as far to say the F-35 has "Inferior acceleration,inferior climb,inferior sustained turn capability" relative to the compared aircraft. This lack in maneuverability is not something that incremental upgrades can solve over the F-35's service life. Rather, they are the permanent result of the F-35's design. Airframe design cannot be changed.

Thrust-to-weight ratios of fighter aircraft; 100% fuel followed by 50% internal fuel
All following calculations assume aircraft thrust using afterburner

F-35A .87 -> 1.07
Su-27K 1.07 -> 1.21
PAK FA* 1.19 (exact figures unknown as final version will feature different engines)
F-16C 1.095 -> 1.25
F-22A 1.08 -> 1.26

Instead of giving the F-35 a high thrust-to-weight ratio and high maneuverability, the design team at Lockheed placed their faith in Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) technology. The HMD allows pilots to literally look at a target to achieve missile lock. With the advent of off-boresight capability missiles such as the AIM-9X, pilots can look at aircraft up 90 degrees away, gain missile lock, and score a kill. If the HMD works as advertised  it could revolutionize the dogfight. However, if the HMD is not able to mitigate the extreme maneuverability of its opponents, that the F-35 is at disadvantage. The last time this much faith was placed on new technology without any back up plan was during the Vietnam War.

In the years prior to the Vietnam War the USAF developed a new theory that beyond visual range (bvr) missiles would be the future of the dogfight and that the traditional weapon of air superiority platforms, the gun, was obsolete. (RAND, 2008)It was also believed that aircraft did not need to be maneuverable as the missile would do most of the maneuvering from range.(APA, 2010) As a result, the F-4 Phantom was not maneuverable and did not feature a gun. Two missile designs were fielded by the USAF during the Vietnam War. The radar guided AIM-7 Sparrow which had a range greater than 20 miles was built for bvr engagements. The AIM-9 Sidewinder missile was designed for visual range combat and had a range of 2.5 miles. The USAF put their faith in guided missile technology and did not equip the F-4 Phantom with guns. The Pk (probability kill) of AIM-7 Sparrow missiles during tests was .70 but during combat the Sparrow had a Pk of .08. Thus, Vietnamese Migs were 100 times more likely to get within visual range and initiate a dogfigt than expected. (RAND, 2008)The Sidewinder did not fare much better with a combat Pk of .15. This spectacular lack of foresight lead to pilots being defenseless without any back up. As a result, pilots had gun pods attached to the F-4 latter in the war. In essence, the lesson learned was that new technology and tactics should always be used in conjunction with older proven technology and tactics in the event that Murphy's law comes to fruition.

The counter point to the argument that the F-35 needs maneuverability is that the F-35 is stealth and enemy fighters would not be able to get within visual range. This assumption is unrealistic. The F-35 will be able to destroy 4.5 generation threats from the comfort of bvr in all likelihood. However, the real threat for the F-35 is against other 5th generation stealth fighters such as the Pak Fa. Because of its stealth, the Pak Fa would not be detectable by the F-35 until it was within 30 nautical miles (estimate using frontal rcs) while the Pak Fa would detect the F-35 at 28 nautical miles. (APA, 2009)If both aircraft are speeding towards each other at mach 1.5 they would be on top of each other in just over 50 seconds. Visual range dogfights are MUCH more likely in the event the JSF is faced with a 5th generation opponent. In which case HMD technology better work. It would also not be out of the question for the Pak Fa to feature an HMD of its own, operational Mig-29's and Su-27's already do. The F-35 has the potential to win the fight but its going to be a lot closer than it needs to be. The F-22A has BOTH high maneuverability PLUS it will be upgraded with HMD technology.

A fight with the F-35 vs the Pak Fa will be close and will likely come down to the skills of their respective aircraft. There is one major component that rests in the F-35's favor and that is avionics, specifically the radar arrays. The Pak Fa is in all likelihood going to use a 1,500 TR AESA array. The new array will likely be an improvement of the NIIP Irbis-E or some evolution of the system in conjunction with other secondary radars. The Irbis-E has 1,500 TR nodes effectively meaning it has more "detection power" than the 1,200 TR F-35 AN/APG-81 AESA.  The vulnerability of the Irbis-E is compounded further by the fact that it is not a low-probability-of-intercept radar(LPIR). Russian engineers do not have a comparable the level of experience in designing LIP radar modes using emission control principles. In tests the APG-81 was able to jam and track even the LPIR of the F-22A (AN/APG-77)

In a series of tests at Edwards AFB, Calif., in 2009, Lockheed Martin’s CATbird avionics testbed—a Boeing 737 that carries the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s entire avionics system—engaged a mixed force of F-22s and Boeing F-15s and was able to locate and jam F-22 radars, according to researchers. - Aviation Week, 2011

If an F-22A with LPIR is vulnerable to the F-35 jamming it, essentially greatly reducing detection abilities, than the Pak Fa without LPIR is that much more vulnerable. As for vulnerability to jamming, the AN/APG-81 has an extremely high resistance to being jammed. In fact, the AN/APG-81 won the David Packard Excellence in Acquisition Award because of its performance against jamming. This ability to jam and track a Pak Fa might end up being what gives the F-35 the edge. Either way, it will be too close for comfort.

Further Reading (links)

Canada and the F-35
Murphy's Law: F-35 Development and Performance Concerns











Monday, August 1, 2011

"Hornet Buffs Up"

Check out Bill Sweetman's article on Aviation Week about new F/A-18E Super Hornet upgrades. These new upgrades include:
-enhanced Electric F414 engines with 20% more thrust
-infrared search-and-track system
-spherical-coverage missile-approach warning system
-further reduced radar cross section (before upgrade 1m^2 est)


Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Eurofighter Conundrum

The problems associated with the development of the F-35 fighter program are well known. The problems associated with its main competitor are not well known to the American public. U.S politicians constantly complain (particularly democrats) about our 5th generation fighter programs but fail to see the spectacular failures of less advanced and yet, MORE EXPENSIVE aircraft built by our allies. For example, the Eurofighter Typhoon costs more per unit than a F-35A and is LESS capable.

These spectacular failures don't diminish the problems of the F-35 program, they merely add perspective. This article makes the case that buyers of the Eurofighter should seriously consider switching to the F-35 assuming they have strong enough diplomatic ties with the United States.

Head to Head Comparison

From this chart it initially seems as if the Eurofighter surpasses the F-35 in many categories. However, this initial glance is deceptive for three reasons. One, many of the initial figures will change in regards to the F-35 because they are currently classified. You may notice the + symbol near some of the figures or the outright "classified" designation in the rate of climb category. The U.S government does not want to publicly disclose all of the information about its latest jet just yet. They did the same thing for the F-22A raptor. More information has been released about the raptor since it entered service and I expect the same will hold true for the F-35.

Secondly, the F-35 is literally a generation ahead of the Eurofighter when it comes to avionics. The Eurofighter currently lacks AESA radar. Although it will be upgraded with an AESA system latter on (developed by Thales)it will have nowhere near the number of transmit/receive modules as the AN/APG-81.

Thirdly, this is the main reason why the F-35 is superior to the Eurofighter, STEALTH. This concept cannot be emphasized enough. Stealth varies and by no means equates to total invisibility BUT the unique capabilities gained from a heavily reduced radar cross section are invaluable in a dogfight and when confronted with advanced integrated air defense systems. To demonstrate this point, I included detection range by SU-35S near the bottom of the table. The SU-35S,a highly capable 4.5 generation fighter developed by the Russian Federation, is equipped with NIIP irbis-E radar system. The NIIP irbis-E would detect and be able to engage the Eurofighter at 150 miles away while it would not be able to detect the F-35 until it was 28 miles away. This is the difference between life and death.

Although the two aircraft have never officially undertaken simulated dogfights against one another, French Rafales (4.5 delta wing canard fighters very similar to the Eurofighter) fought F-22A raptors (which share many similarities to the F-35).In the dogfight, the F-22A raptors emerged victorious. The simulated dogfight occurred within visual range of each other.(The following is quoted from Arabian Aerospace).

"Lt Col Lansing Pilch, commander of the 27th, and of the F-22 deployment to Al Dhafra, was categoric in stating his view of the Raptor’s performance during the exercise. He confirmed that the six Raptors flew undefeated, against all opponents. Pilch said: 'In every test we did, the Raptors just blew the competition out of the water.'”

Given that the F-35 is slightly cheaper than the Eurofighter, AND has stealth capabilities plus more advanced avionics, the F-35 is the clear choice between the two.

1.)Global Security;
2.)Air Power Australia;
3.)Lockheed Martin;

Additional Reading:

Rising Fighter Aircraft Costs

USAF Fighter Aircraft Cost over time 1945-2011

The dates listed are references to how much each aircraft was worth at that time followed by a; with the modern equivalent in 2011 dollars. The dates do not reflect when the aircraft went into service.

P-51 Mustang $50,000 (1945); $627,005.56 (2011)
F-86A Sabre $178,408 (1950); $1,670,979.69 (2011)
F-4C Phantom II $1,900,000 (1965); $13,614,977.78 (2011)
F-15A Eagle $27,900,000 (1998); $38,635,851.53 (2011)
F-22A Raptor $150,000,000 (2009); $157,820,329.36 (2011)
F-35A Lighting II $122,000,000 (2011)

BAF Fighter Aircraft Cost over time 1939-2011

Note: the following figures are already adjusted for inflation and converted from their original respective currencies i.e. pounds or euros. The dates after the arrow indicated when each aircraft went into service.

Supermarine Spitfire $800,971.69 (2011) ->1939
Harrier Jump Jet $23,000,000 (2011) -> 1969
Panavia Tornado $29,393,436.93 (2011) -> 1979
Eurofighter Typhoon $141,784,192.02 (2011) ->2003
F-35A Lighting II $122,000,000 (2011)

Russian Air force Fighter Aircraft Cost over time 1959-2010
Note: the following figures were not adjusted to 2011 dollars as references for these date of each dollar equivalent could not be found with the exception of the SU-35S and Pak FA T-50

Mig-21 $1,500,000 (2011) -> 1959
Mig-29 $29,000,000 (2011) -> 1982
SU-27 $30,000,000 (2011) -> 1984
SU-35S $65,000,000 (2011) -> 2005
PAK FA T-50 $100,000,000 (2011) -> 2010


Since their inception over the skies of Western Europe during World War I, fighter aircraft have become more technologically advanced and capable with each newer generation. But as a result of this increased capability comes an astronomical increase in cost. For the most part, the astronomical increase in price HAS been worth the near exponential increase in capabilities. During World War II, hundreds of B-29 Super Fortress' dropped thousands of bombs in a saturation attempt to often hit one factory. Today, a single B-2 Spirit can hit 16 different targets with JDAM 2,000 pound GPS guided munitions while remaining undetected by the enemy. The same increase in cost and lethality is true for fighter aircraft.

The F-15 Eagle is the most decorated fighter in modern history with an unparalleled 104 to ZERO kill ratio. Although the F-15 costs much more than its predecessor the F-4 Phantom II, its service record PROVES that its increased lethality justified its cost. In the same way, the latest generation of stealth aircraft will be justified. In mock dogfights, veteran F-15C and F-16C pilots are pitted against F-22A raptor pilots. Raptor pilots commonly fight 4 to 5 F-15Cs and "don't break a sweat" according to one pilot. This is one RAAF pilot who describes fighting F-22As during a Red Flag exercise in 2007.

"'I can’t see the [expletive deleted] thing,” said RAAF Squadron Leader Stephen Chappell, exchange F-15 pilot in the 65th Aggressor Squadron. “It won’t let me put a weapons system on it, even when I can see it visually through the canopy. [Flying against the F-22] annoys the hell out of me.'”- Austrian Exchange pilot, Red Flag 2007, from Defense Industry Daily

Currently, the F-22A holds a 144-1 kill ratio in simulated dogfights. Its cheaper less capable cousin the F-35, is "400%" more capable than any 4th generation fighter according to the USAF.

In conclusion, aircraft with continue to become more technologically advanced and as a result, become much more expensive. Despite what politicians say, this trend has been going on since the creation of fighter aircraft. And in my view, the increase in cost of these aircraft is worth their increase in capability (F-22A and F-35A not the Eurofighter, a separate article will discuss that in detail). It simply means that we require less aircraft to get the job done which is a major bonus for logistical support.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

My Sources

I realize I haven't posted as much and that will change. In the mean time, here are some of the sources I use for defense related news and background information.

Asian Politics/Chinese military

General Defense News


General Background Information

My Favorite Authors on political and military developments

Fareed Zakaria
David Axe
Bill Sweetman

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Should America fear the J-20?

The emergence of the J-20 surprised many western analysts. Many did not expect China to develop a stealth fighter so quickly despite Russia's unveiling of the Pak Fa. My personal opinion is that the United States should be concerned about the J-20 but its not time to freak out, not yet at least. Despite its impressive appearance, there are many flaws in the current J-20 design.

Although the front of the J-20 closely resembles an F-22, it does not maintain a low frontal rcs because of its incorporation of canards. The canards give excellent maneuverability however, they are a liability in the age of stealth combat. Because canards present large angular surfaces that reflect radar waves, they increase the frontal rcs of the J-20. Even with software similar to the Eurofighter Typhoon, the frontal rcs of the J-20 will undoubtedly be larger than both the F-35 and F-22. It is unclear however, if the aircraft shown is merely a prototype and the final version may not feature canards. The J-20 variant shown may be similar to the YF-22 in terms of stage of production. This is not to say the current J-20 is not stealthy, the rcs of the J-20 is likely somewhere around .01m^2. From the rear, the current J-20 design is a disappointment. Even the most "enthusiastic" analysts agree that the J-20 maintains a poor rear rcs do to the placement of its engine and the design of the engines themselves.

For such a large aircraft, the J-20 uses underpowered engines. Despite its best efforts China cannot currently manufacture its own high performance jet engines. Thus, China must purchase AL-31 engines from Russia. These engines provide inadequate thrust for the J-20. The J-20 is much larger than most air superiority fighters such as the F-22. The J-20 is around 70 feet long (F-22 is 60ft long) and much heavier. China is likely to ask for improved AL-31 engines but this will only help so much. Even the most advanced 117S version of the AL-31 "would likely not be sufficient to extract the full performance potential of this advanced airframe." -(Kopp, Goon, 2010) China really needs to domestically produce its own jet engines and not be at the mercy of a foreign power. Particularly Russia who is reluctant to give China their best technology. China frequently reverse engineers what Russia gives them, like the Su-27 (J-11B Chinese made copy). It is projected that China will not be able to fully utilize the airframe for another decade.

From what I've read, I agree with Bill Sweetman in regards to the true purpose of the J-20. The J-20 is much larger than air superiority fighters and closely resembles the American F-111 fighter-bomber, "looks like a stealth F-111"-(Sweetman, 2011). The overall design and the manner in which the aircraft's rcs is reduced further supports Sweetman's theory. "The J-20 has a chiseled nose and trapezoidal engine inlets similar to the F-22’s and F-35’s—and indeed the T-50’s—indicating a potentially high degree of frontal stealthiness, useful for an aircraft that needs to fly straight toward an unmoving opponent on the ground. This reinforces Sweetman’s assessment that the J-20 ‘is a bomber as much as, if not more than, a fighter.’"-(David Axe, 2011). This argument is further supplemented by the fact that China has already invested in an advanced 4.5 generation fighter, the J-10. China's current fighter-bomber is long due for an overhaul.

In conclusion, the J-20 should raise eyebrows of Western analysts but the J-20 is nothing to freak out about. It is important to note that the emergence of the J-20 proves that China is progressing faster than previously expected. Western intelligence should retool they way they gauge China's technological progress. In retrospect, it was only a matter of time before China joined the rapidly growing 5th generation fighter club.


An interesting article done by Aviation Week:

Monday, January 10, 2011

J-20 Update

Don't freak out people. (or at least not yet)