Chinese defense expert Song Zhongping told the Global Times that the J-20 is advanced new equipment for China.
Ren Yukun, a senior official from the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China, said that the J-20 has replaced its original WS-10 engines and now has a “Chinese heart.”
China is training pilots in the J-20 by conducting combat patrols in the East China Sea and alert patrols in the South China Sea.
In the South China Sea, the Spratly islands are roughly 500 miles off the coast of mainland China. A single J-20 needs a ship to land on or an accompanying aerial tanker to refuel it to perform missions. But the J-20 is not built to land on ships. Besides, flying large tankers presents significant risks and increases the likelihood of being attacked.
China is floating the idea that the J-20 might soon fire laser weapons to incinerate opposing aircraft and ground targets. However, It doesn’t offer any detail on testing, prototyping, or development. Besides, it mentions little to no specifics regarding the maturity of such a plan.
The Warrior Maven reported that lasers are an excellent tool for aerial interception because there is no time delay. Moreover, laser weapons move at the speed of light and are quiet. So laser-armed fighter jets could bring a sphere of unprecedented combat advantage. However, it requires a large amount of energy to be effective. That is the problem that needs to be solved before being put on an airplane.
In addition, laser weapons integrate into a 5th-generation stealth fighter jet without compromising its stealth characteristics. But only if the laser and its power source emerge from an internal weapons bay. If the fighter has any protruding structures, it will generate a strong radar signal to enemy defenses.
Interestingly, the Chinese Global Times says China has been working on an external “laser pod.” However, adding a pod to 5th-generation aircraft would seem difficult without compromising its stealth properties.
The US F-35 is expected to fire laser weapons in the next several years. Developers will design that can condense massive amounts of power into a small and single unit that can be fitted in the F-35.
The 19fortyfive reported that J-20s cannot be carrier-capable aircraft, so China is developing the Shenyang J-31. It is a carrier-launched stealth 5th-generation fighter aircraft. China designs the J-31 as a multi-role fighter, like the US F-35.
It will be capable of performing a range of missions. They include close air support and air interdiction operations, and suppression of enemy air defenses. It may also be capable of being operated as a carrier-based fighter.
The J-31 can carry an internal cannon. In addition, it has two internal weapons bays capable of carrying two missiles each. It also has three hardpoints for mounting weapons on each of its wings.
However, the J-31 cannot counter or rival the US F-35B because it doesn’t have any take-off capability like that of the US F-35B. Such as short take-off and landing or vertical landing capability.
That means China isn’t able to use the J-31 on Chinese carriers. Besides, the J-31 can’t be transported on smaller ships, as can the US F-35B.
Thus, China does not have a fighter jet comparable to the F-35-B’s short take-off and vertical landings. Moreover, China is only now starting to produce its first fifth-generation stealth fighter.
According to the National Interest, China is far behind the United States’ ability to project fifth-generation air power from the sea. As a result, China isn’t only inferior in terms of technological innovation but also in sheer numbers.
At Zhuhai airshow 2021, program officials said that China would likely increase production of the J-20. But they nevertheless did not disclose any production ramp-up rates.
The Air Force Magazine reported that the People’s Liberation Army has not disclosed the number of its operational J-20s. But The South China Morning Post reported that China fields 150 J-20s in four air regiments. Almost all operate in the interior of the country. China is reportedly using them for training and tactics development.
U.S. Air Force plans to buy 1,763 F-35s, of which Lockheed Martin has already taken delivery of about 300. In addition, the U.S. intends to acquire 273 F-35Cs and 420 F-35B or F-35Cs. But it doesn’t include inventories of the Navy and Marine Corps.
According to several sources, the J-20’s designers established a fourth production line in 2019 and began mass production in 2020. Each of the production lines reportedly can make about one J-20 a month.
However, a retired U.S. Navy captain said that China’s technical capabilities had improved rapidly. Beijing has achieved in a decade a level of technical prowess it took the Navy a century to achieve. But it is based on both open-source and stolen data to improve its programs.
Beijing has a history of stealing technology that it would otherwise be incapable of developing independently. For example, Chinese hackers had allegedly stolen technical documents related to the F-35 from Lockheed Martin in 2007. A similar theft occurred again in 2017 when Chinese hackers allegedly went after Australian F-35 defense contractors.
Images of the F-35 and the Chinese J-31 multi-role fighter reveal similarities.
The Chinese regime’s “People’s Daily Online” specifically cites design similarities between the emerging Chinese J-31 and the F-35. For example, it wrote that the “J-31 and F-35 use the same DSI inlet (non-boundary layer-separated lane supersonic inlet).” The only significant difference is that the J-31 uses two engines compared to the F-35’s single-engine propulsion configuration.
The J-20 also has many of the same capabilities as the F-35. For example, they included stealth and supercruise. In addition, the J-20 has a sensor suite that is similar to the F-35’s Electro-Optical Targeting System.
A 2018 Pentagon news story mentions an apparent similarity between the F-35 and the Chinese J-20. It could very well be a result of espionage.
Then the J-20 relies on engines that may be very advanced for a fourth-generation fighter. But China fails to make the J-20 truly mighty. Even though Beijing is working to develop a better engine, the plane isn’t performing to its full capacity.
As a result, the F-35 maintains an advantage over its competition. Copying is simple; inventing and improving is the challenge.