PLA is undergoing swift modernization and structural changes as part of its ambitious plan to become a formidable military power in the region. The push for indigenisation helped PLAAF to become one of the most advanced airpower the world. After closely studying strategies of Falkland wars and Yom-Kippur wars, china made the significant change to combat strategies. They realized the need for building new aircraft that would possess long ranges and larger weapon carrying capacity. The J-20 was developed as part of J-XX program which started at late 1990's.
On 22 December 2010, the first J-20 prototype underwent high-speed taxiing tests outside the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute.It was first flown on 11 Jan 2011, just 2 days after the US secretary of Defense Robert Gates started visiting China. Although they claimed test was preplanned, most observers believe that China was intended to send a clear message to the west about it's growing military capabilities. In 5 years Chengdu Aerospace Corporation made a total of 9 prototypes with the latest prototype rolled out on Dec 2015. The latest prototype, which marked as 2101 suggests that it would be the first among Low Rate Initial Production airframes (LRIP), which is intended for military use. It signals J-20 may enter service before planned induction date.
J-20 Design is largely based on F-22 and canceled Russian fighter MiG 1.42. The Chinned nose cone and canopy have close resemblance with that of F-22. The fuselage and tail structure is almost similar to that of Mig 1.42 and YF-23 respectively. It was the first stealth aircraft to feature a large dihedral canard and a delta wing configuration. There were lots of debates regarding the use of canards and stealth capabilities of aircraft. Though CAC claims to be using a low RCS canard structure, experts believe that this may result in reduced stealth capabilities. As the material breakdown of J-20 is not available, some studies indicate that it may have titanium body rather than composite materials. The material used plays key in modern fighters as they have to withstand the large heat generated by sustained high-speed operations. At the same time, composite materials and surface coatings help in reducing radar signature.The trapezoidal edge aligned engine inlets are closest to F-22, though appear to be larger and would employ F-35 style Diverterless Supersonic Inlet (DSI), which will improve inlet edge signature. Larger DSI also implies the use of bigger engines.
China faced major setbacks in developing an engine for the J-20 program. As its design demands more thrust to weight ratio, which is around 10:1, the Russian-supplied AL-31 will affect its capabilities. As AL-31 is supposed to power Su-27, the supercruise capabilities of J-20 would be limited. The performance of J-20 will largely depend on future engine developments. They have to develop an engine, which will have similar performance that of Pratt&Wittney F-119/W-15. The Initial production series would be powered with W-10/AL-31F engines and later production series might be powered by W-15 before induction.
The J-20 also carries a powerful active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, nose-mounted infrared search and tracking sensors, and fuselage-mounted cameras to give its pilot a VR 360 degree imaging (similar to the F-35's avionics). For weapons, the J-20 would have long-range missiles like the PL-12, PL-15, and PL-21, and short-ranged infrared-guided PL-8 and PL-10. Networked with other platforms such as the Divine Eagle anti-stealth drone, the J-20's array of sensors will give it the ability to go toe-to-toe with other stealth fighters. China claims that J-20 would be ahead of its Russian counterpart T-50 in terms of Avionics.The aircraft features a glass cockpit, with two main large color liquid crystal displays (LCD), situated side-by-side, three smaller auxiliary displays, and a wide-angle holographic head-up display (HUD).A revised nose section, much similar to that of the much-criticized F-35, with an IRST/EOTS (Infra Red Search and Track / Electro-Optical Tracking System) – used to hunt low observable aircraft and a metal finish that loosely reminds the radar absorbing Haze Paint first used on F-16s
Based on Design and Avionics J-20 could be used as a long-range interceptor and as a strike fighter. As J-20 possesses a larger internal volume, it would have the capability to carry more fuel and an array of weapons.This will enable it to shoot down AWACS and Tankers of enemy forces as well as act as a long range interceptor. The design along with suitable armaments would enable J-20 to function a Theatre Strike Fighter, Electronic attack platform or even as an Anti-Satellite Weapon Launch Platform.
The Induction of J-20 into PLAAF would enable it to have superiority over large island chains in the South China Sea. Unrefuelled combat radius performance for a Hi-Hi-Hi profile in a fighter in the size and weight class of the FB-111A typically falls between 1,000 and 1,500 nautical miles, subject to a range of assumptions and engine TSFC during the profile. As j-20 is having almost similar size that of F--111A, it may possess same combat radius of that of F-111A, which would enable it to operate within second island chain with the assistance of aerial refueling. This would pose a major threat to the US and it allies in the Asia-Pacific.
As Air defense systems of US and it allies in Pacific rim largely depends on Integrated Air Defence Systems (IADS) which primarily using S-band radar systems, J-20 would have a clear advantage.At the same time, Airborne early warning capabilities are also limited as E-3/E-767/APY-2 AWACS (US Air Force, Japan) operating in the S-band and the E-2C/APS-145 (US Navy, Japan, Singapore) and E-2D/APY-9 (US Navy) in the UHF-band. The L-band Radar will perform better in comparison to S-band radars. The E-737 Wedgetail/MESA (South Korea, Australia) and G.550 CAEW / EL/M-2075 (Singapore) are operating in L-band. In strategic terms, J-20 would have a clear advantage over systems possessed by the US and its allies. As of now the refueling capabilities of PLAAF is very much limited. But with induction of more platforms, they may be able to position J-20s deep inside mainland, which would give them a clear advantage.
- Height:14.4 ft
- V(fus):2377.3 ft3
- Empty weight:34572.2lb
- Fuel and Payload:40427.8
- CG location(%MAC):20
- CG Estimated (Based on Gear position):18.6
- Wing Loading(lb/ft2):90.5
- Thrust to weight ratio:0.507
- Thrust to weight ratio(Afterburners):0.853
- M:2.13(shock on nose cone)
- M:2.81(shock on probe)
- Enough thrust to achieve:m=2.5
- Ground roll Req:1398ft
- Distance to achieve MIL 50' clearance requirement:144ft
- Take off distance:1542ft
- Climb angle for best rate of climb:19.2