Is J-20 fighter really better than US’ F-35? At least Chinese media claims so
New Delhi, Jan 22: Endowed with state-of-the-art aviation, stealth capabilities and an advanced weapon system, China's fifth generation fighter jet J-20 is considered as one of the world's most advanced fighter jets.
China's ace fighter, developed by the Chengdu Aerospace corporation, is somewhat similar to the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and the Sukhoi T-50 fighters. But, the Chinese media has claimed that J-20 is superior to the United States' F-35 stealth fighter.
"Its range and weapons payload are widely considered to be better than the F-35's, enabling it to achieve its main mission of gaining aerial superiority in a 21st Century battlefield," a report published in Global Times, an English-language Chinese newspaper, said.
Almost all the leading countries in the world are working on developing fifth-generation jet fighters which require high-end research and technological capabilities. There is no precise definition as such about the characteristics that a fifth-generation fighter should have, but it is agreed by and large that it must include stealth technology, supersonic cruising speed, and highly integrated avionics as part of the criteria.
Because there is no precise definition of fifth-generation jet fighter, it is hard to compare one fighter with the other. More so in this case, as the Chinese are very secretive about J-20's capabilities. Many specifics of the new Chinese fighter remain unknown as the Chinese military is reluctant to provide details of the J-20.
To compare J-20 and F-35, we have to rely on reports and analysis by leading experts, and whatever information is available in the public domain.
The J-20 is a single-seat aircraft with two engines, forward canards and a stealthy profile. The F-35 is a single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multi-role fighter. Compared to the US's fifth-generation fighter jets, the J-20 has longer range, more internal fuel capacity and larger internal weapons capability.
The aircraft is abnormally large in size which indicates that the aircraft will have high weapons and fuel payload capacity giving it long range and capacity to carry a lot more weapons than any other 5th Gen fighter. The frontal aspect of J-20 looks extremely similar to that of American F-35.
The J-20 is probably the biggest 5th Gen aircraft and is approximately 60-65 feet long.
China's new combat ready J-20s are using WS-10B engines. According to SCMP, the WS-10B is a modified version of the WS-10 Taihang engine, which were built to power China's J-10 and J-11 fighters. Those fighters are labeled as fourth-generation jets. The WS-10B's thrust-to-weight ratio is not able to power the J-20 to supersonic speeds without the use of afterburners. China has not perfected the W-15 engines, said a National interest.org report.
Lockheed Martin's F-22 and F-35 stealth planes use Pratt & Whitney engines which are time tested and known for stable performance.Engines like the F-22's Pratt & Whitney F119 allow fighters to reach supersonic speeds without using afterburners, which allows them to maintain their stealth.
China's J-20 and J-31 stealth fighters cannot super-cruise, or fly at supersonic speeds like their closest rivals, Lockheed Martin's F-22 and F-35 stealth planes, without using afterburners, said reports published in leading defence portals.
There are three types of F-35 aircraft, the cheapest being the F-35A, whose recently contracted unit cost is US$98 million per unit without an engine, and will be lowered to US$85 million when in full production. The price of a J-20 may fall between US$30 million and US$50 million per unit.
The main sensor on board of the F-35 is its AN/APG-81 AESA-radar, designed by Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems and is augmented by the Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) mounted under the nose of the aircraft, designed by Lockheed Martin.
The J-20 is stated to use an advanced radar however the make of it is still not known. Although J-20 appears as a better stealth aircraft than the rest.
Comparing the two fighters in quantitative terms is hard, but what weighs in US' favour is that American fighters have been in service for years and have actually been used in combat situations. The J-20, on papers, looks formidable, but it is not yet known how it may perform in real battle situations. One thing that stands out is that Chinese developed J-20 in a very short span of time, and it has already been inducted into service. The Chinese warplane was developed by the Chengdu Aerospace corporation, which began testing them in 2011 and the first planes entered service in March 2017. Americans took decades to develop F-22 and F-35, and even after deploying, there were many design changes that were made. The US has spent millions of dollars to develop F series of fighters. Even President Trump had once remarked that too much was being spent of F-35's development.