|National origin||People's Republic of China|
|Designer||Chengdu Aerospace Corporation
Shenyang Aerospace Corporation
|First flight||January 11, 2011 (J-20)|
|Primary user||People's Liberation Army Air Force|
J-XX J-X, and XXJ are names applied by Western intelligence sources to describe programs by the People's Republic of China to develop one or more fifth-generation or fourth-generation (by Chinese nomenclature) fighter aircraft. In a 2009 television interview, He Weirong (何为荣), Deputy Commander of the People's Liberation Army Air Force, stated that China had multiple such programs underway and that an undesignated fifth-generation fighter developed jointly by Chengdu Aerospace Corporation and Shenyang Aerospace Corporation would be in service by 2017–2019.
In 2002, Jane's Defence Weekly reported that Shenyang Aerospace Corporation had been selected to head research and development of the new fighter, which was also stated in the New Scientist the same week. Also, a 2006 article in Military Technology referred to three designs; two by Shenyang Aerospace Corporation and one by Chengdu Aerospace Corporation.
According to Jane's, development of the subsystems, including an engine with thrust vectoring capability, and weapon suite for the next generation fighter had been under development. A photograph of a wind tunnel model published with the article showed a twin-engine aircraft with twin vertical tail fins. The aircraft would carry its weapons internally like the F-22 Raptor. New Scientist called attention to the angular, faceted features of the design, comparing them to the F-117 Nighthawk.
The article in Military Technology featured a picture of a completely different design, speculatively called J-14 and said to be a Shenyang project, with the designations J-12 and J-13 being applied to competing designs by Shenyang and Chengdu respectively. Since 2009, Chinese internet comments have repeatedly pointed to a merging of the two efforts, to be named J-14. Chengdu was rumored to be responsible for the airframe, while Shenyang would be responsible for the engines and avionics.
In November 2009, General He Weirong, the Deputy Commander of the People's Liberation Army Air Force confirmed research and development of the fifth-generation stealth fighter, and gave a possible in-service date of 2017 to 2019.
A U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency official commenting on Gen. He's claims stated the DIA believes a first flight of the J-XX "will occur in the next few years", but it is also believed that operational deployment of the fighter "in meaningful numbers" will not take place "for about 10 years." U.S. Air Force and U.S. intelligence officials have stated their belief that China likely has all the resources, data and technology required to build a fifth generation fighter. However, doubts remain on whether China has enough knowledge in areas such as systems engineering, integration and production processes to build a fighter comparable to U.S. stealth designs which can also be produced in large numbers. It is speculated that the fighter may not be an "all-aspect" stealth design by some sources, for this reason. The U.S. Department of Defense expects China to have a handful of fifth generation fighters in service between 2020 and 2025, according to statements made by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates in July 2009. However, a year later, in May 2010, this statement was rebuffed by the US' prime intelligence producer—Ulman stating that Chinese 5th generation fighter jets will be expected around 2018. In 2011 Gates changed his position to state that the Chinese may have 50 stealth fighters by 2020 and a couple of hundred by 2025 while the United States would have 850 and 1500 by those dates.
Western analysts have noted that while the Chengdu J-20 and Shenyang J-31 are expected to fall far short of the capabilities of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, the delays in providing the American fifth generation fighter in sufficient numbers to American allies in the region may give China a window of opportunity over the legacy fighters of their neighbors.
In 2013, vice-president of the PLA Air Force Command Academy, Major General Zhu Heping noted manufacturing and innovation deficiencies as reasons for the slow rate of progress in developing jet fighters, especially in the area of engines. Military commentator Ma Dingsheng responded that these problems would take decades to overcome.
The general design concept of the J-XX is that of a fifth-generation fighter which incorporates stealth, supercruise, super-maneuverability and short take-off capabilities, abbreviated "4S". One or more of the proposed designs are believed to incorporate several design features for increasing stealth and maneuverability while decreasing weight and drag.
The Chinese state television broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) asserts:
A V-shaped pelikan tail could be implemented, replacing conventional vertical tail fins and horizontal stabiliser structures. This would be beneficial for reduction of radar signature, weight and aerodynamic drag, since control surface area and corresponding control mechanisms are reduced. Problems faced by this type of design are flight control system complexity and control surface loading. If the pelikan tail is adopted, use of engines with thrust vector control may alleviate these problems.
CCTV also asserts:
The new fighter may have a significantly longer fuselage than other fifth generation fighter designs, such as the F-22, for reduction of transonic and supersonic drag. A trapezoidal wing may be implemented for reduction of drag and radar signature. Use of an 's'-shaped air inlet and boundary layer separation system would greatly reduce radar signature.
A fifth generation fighter remains an ambitious goal for the PRC, because they are behind in the needed technologies such as aerospace-grade carbon fiber, advanced fighter engines, and AESA radar.
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