China’s first foray into fifth-generation fighters may have been based on stolen plans for America’s F-22 Raptor, but according to China’s state-owned media outlets, a new slew of upgrades are about to make their J-20 superior to America’s future workhorse stealth fighter, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
According to China’s Global Times, “experts” already agree that the J-20 boasts superior range and payload capacity as compared to the F-35, which is factually accurate if Chinese claims regarding the fighter’s performance are to be trusted. To date, however, hard data pertaining to the J-20 is still fairly hard to come by — due in no small part to the relatively small number of the jets that are in service. Despite calling the J-20 operational last year, to date, fewer than 20 of the stealth fighters are actually flying.
The J-20’s stealth characteristics have been called into question by a number of U.S. based experts, but most agree that the Chinese fighter likely does have a higher top speed and better maneuverability than the F-35, drawing heavily from the F-22 it was based on.
The Global Times cite Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military analyst that is frequently quoted by Chinese state media, in saying that an upgraded version of the J-20 will reach production next year that will boast “overwhelming superiority” over the F-35.
While Chinese media has inferred that the upgrades will involve “aviation and electronic technologies,” they have offered little more to support the idea that China’s somewhat troubled J-20 will be able to live up to their claims. To date, longstanding problems with the J-20’s intended WS-15 engine has forced the nation to employ older, less efficient WS-10B engines, comparable to those flown on China’s J-10. This engine problem has actually placed the J-20’s standing as a “fifth-generation fighter” in question in the first place, as the aircraft is unable to sustain supersonic speeds without the use of its afterburner — a feat considered requisite for the latest generation of fighters and currently found only in America’s F-22 and F-35.
Chinese media went on to report that the F-35’s radar absorbant coating wears off and needs to be “replaced after every flight,” and that China’s “passive radars and meter wave radars can also detect” the F-35, allowing them to shoot the advanced fighter down with anti-air assets before it enters into Chinese air space.
It would seem that China is sourcing more than just the engines for their J-20 from Russia, as their state-media appears to be taking a page directly out of Moscow’s misinformation-based marketing book with vague claims regarding the capabilities of troubled and as-yet unproven military assets. Or perhaps China has legitimately made some groundbreaking advances they hope to soon incorporate into the J-20s production. Only time will tell.
Feature image courtesy of the People’s Liberation Army