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Chinese Stealth Fighter
J-X / J-XX / XXJ (Jianjiji - Fighter aircraft)

The original 1997 US Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) assessment of the Chinese advanced fighter, known by its designation of "XXJ", was a design resembling the Boeing F-15 Eagle. The agency predicted the XXJ would be multirole, have stealth features and was expected to enter Chinese air force and navy service by around 2015.

By the late 1990s there was general agreement in the open literature that China was working on some type of stealthy fighter attack aircraft, and that this program has been underway since the mid-1990s. For a long time, there was very little agreement beyond these basic points. Available treatments of this subject in print and online long seemed to represent little more than a confusing jumble of informed speculation, wild guesstimates, and active disinformation. The Chinse government is under no obligation to set the record straight, and indeed has every incentive to add to the general confusion.

By 2001 the US Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) had revised its assessment of the Chinese advanced fighter. This new estimate revised the in-service date to 2010. Both Chinese fighter companies - Chengdu and Shenyang - were thought to be working on advanced combat aircraft concepts. It was believed that the XXJ would have a canard configuration and be equipped with twin thrust-vectoring engines. The design seemed influenced by Sukhoi's advanced concepts such as the Su-37 and forward-swept wing S-37 Berkut. Shenyang had a link with the Russian manufacturer dating from the early 1990s. Combining a foreplane, a tailplane and thrust vectoring would enhance manoeuvrability. Engines were expected to be a version of the Wopen WP15 in the 26,000lb-thrust (115kN) class. The fighter was expected to have a 20,000kg (44,000lb) empty weight and incorporate a fly-by-wire control system similar to that developed by Shenyang and tested in the J-8IIACT program.

Russia and India jointly developed the Sukhoi PAK FA / T-50 , which first flew in January 2010. In June 2001, India was offered 'joint development and production' of this new 5th generation fighter by Russia. Russia had been trying to sell this concept both to China and India for some time. It seems probable that China declined to participate in this project given a belief that Russia stood to gain more from Chinese participation than did China. That is, it would seem that China had determined that it could produce a superior product without Russian help. With the first flight of the Russian stealth fighter in 2010, an arguably superior Chinese steath fighter might be expected to take to the skies not too long thereafter.

By 2002 there were further reports that China was developing a new stealthy fighter jet aircraft and many of the design concepts and components had already been created. This is the first Eastern rival to the West's F/A-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to go into development. [Janes -- "China Reveals New Stealth Fighter Project," 12/11/02]. At this time, the Russian Sukhoi Company (JSC), which had developed close ties with Shenyang over the licensed co-production of its Su-27SK fighter as J-11, was reported working with Shenyang in developing the next-generation fighter technology and sub-systems. Although Russia had not yet developed an operational stealth fighter, the J-12 project may benefit from its technologies in two areas: thrust vectoring engine and stealth design. China may also seek potential partners from Russia, Israel and Europe to co-develop avionics and weapon suites for its 4th-generation fighter aircraft.

By late 2002 the Shenyang Aircraft Company was reported to have been selected to head research and development of a new heavy-weight fighter for China's People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). Development of the engines and weapon subsystems for the fourth-generation fighter had been under way for some time, with a number of design concepts having been created. These include a twin-engine aircraft sharing some design traits with Lockheed Martin's stealthy F/A-22 multirole fighter, such as the internal carriage of its weapon systems. The Chinese designs retain a more conventional wing, however, and use a single vertical tail fin.

The Shenyang proposal was for a twin engine, single seat 15-tonne class heavy fighter, similar to the US F-22 Raptor but featureing canards. At least four different configurations were evaluted before the definitive "New 93" layout was arrived at. Stealth technology was said to be a prominent design feature, with an RCS of about 0.5 square metres beening mentioned. Thrust vectoring technology was said to make the aircraft more agile than the Su-27, in a powerplant with greater than 8000kg thrust.

Considering China's records in combat aircraft development, such a project may prove challenging. It will involves technology advancement in a number of fields including materials, high-performance aviation engine, electronics, flight control software, and stealth technologies. A project of this scale will also require huge amount of investment and considerable knowledge of complex project and manufacturing management. While China may be able to benefit from some "off-the-shelf" dual-use technologies available in the commercial market, it will almost definitely seek assistance from its traditional military technology suppliers such as Russia and Israel. However, none of these two countries possess the experience of developing an advance fighter of this class.

Brigadier Govinda M. Nair wrote in 2005 that "A stealth fighter, XXJ, equivalent to the US F-22 is likely to be inducted by 2015." According to the PLA's Deputy Commander He Weirong, the Chinese fifth generation fighter was expected to be in service with the PLAAF by 2017-2019.

A 2006 article in Military Technology referred to three designs; Shenyang J-12 and Shenyang J-14 by 601 Institute Shenyang Aircraft Corporation [SAC] and Chengdu J-13 by 611 Institute Chengdu Aircraft Corporation [CAC]. The report in Military Technology featured a picture of a completely different design, speculatively dubbed J-14 and said to be a Shenyang project, with the designations J-12 and J-13 being applied to (possibly competing) designs by Shenyang and Chengdu respectively.

Shenyang Airplane Corporation (SAC) is in charge of the large, twin-engine J-8 fighters in service with the PLAAF (People's Liberation Army Air Force) as well as of licence production of the Su-27SK under the local designation of J-11. The other study group is the 611 Institute from Chengdu Airplane Corporation (CAC).

By January 2007 Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) and Chengdu Aircraft Industry Co. (CAC), China's two major fighter aircraft enterprises, were both reportedly working on advanced fighter designs slated to enter the PLAAF service as soon as 2015. Chengdu was focused on an enlarged twin-engine, 4th generation stealthy version of the J-10 fighter, possibly designated J-13. Shenyang was said to be focused on an entirely new 5th generation F-22-class stealth fighter, possibly designated the J-12. Both projects were believed to have benefited from Russian technologies.




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