J-20 - Variants
The chief designer of the J-20 has said that the J-20 can be customized. The role of J-20 includes the simultaneous performance of additional roles in its main air superiority mission. It can also be developed into a tactical bomber for an electronic warfare (EW) aircraft. China's most advanced stealth fighter jet J-20 could be developed into a bomber, electric warfare (EW) aircraft and a carrier-based variant, Chinese military experts said on 16 January 2019 as latest reports suggested a two-seat version of the warplane is under development. All current stealth fighter jets feature single-seat, so the potential J-20 variant might become the first two-seat stealth fighter jet in the world, China Central Television (CCTV) reported.
On a highly digitalized future battlefield, large amounts of information can easily overflow the entire control panel of an aircraft. Having a second pilot and a second panel sharing part of the work will be advantageous. Yang Wei, the chief designer of the J-20, said in March 2018 that the aircraft will be serialized and see its combat capability constantly upgraded, People's Daily reported.
The current J-20 is a basic version, and it is by design highly customizable, Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times. Outfitting the warplane with a second seat allows it to play multiple roles in addition to winning air superiority, Song said, noting that the two-seat version can be further developed into a tactical bomber or EW aircraft.
Having variations that other countries do not possess will greatly expand the Chinese military's capability in an asymmetric warfare, analysts said. The US had a similar plan with its stealth fighter jet the F-22 due to its supersonic speed and potential to penetrate airspace without being detected. However, the FB-22, a tactical bomber version of the F-22, was axed in 2006 because the US Air Force wanted a strategic bomber instead of a tactical one, US media outlet the National Interest reported.
Although the FC-31, another Chinese stealth fighter jet, is widely expected to become China's next generation carrier-borne fighter jet, Song said that J-20 can also be modified to fulfill the role. Even if the J-20 does not make additions to its role, it will definitely see enhancements to its capability, as China has a tradition of upgrading its fighter jets with advanced technologies before moving on to an entirely new aircraft. An upgraded J-20 will have improved avionics and fire control systems, more powerful engines and more weapons payload, Song said.
A heavily modified Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter jet formally entered mass production in July 2020, according to a report via South China Morning Post (SCMP), which spoke with military sources about the development surrounding the fifth-generation fighter jet with upgraded Russian engines. China held a ceremony in early July 2020, unveiling the modified J-20B stealth fighter jet. The source said, "production of the J-20B started on 08 July 2020. It has finally become a complete stealth fighter jet, with its agility meeting the original criteria." The source said "The most significant change to the fighter jet is that it is now equipped with thrust vector control". Since mid-2019 no J-20 has been built with AL-31FN but are using WS-10C since then.
The initial J-20A production used a temporary WS-10 power unit (the aircraft originally produced uses the Russian AL-31), and the two-seater J-20 may be waiting to be changed. Powerful WS-15. Even the naming of a conceptual J-20 may change according to the aircraft power unit. For example, the WS-15-powered J-20 is designated as J-20B, then the actual two-seater naming will be J-20BS, and the two-seater variant of the WS-10-powered J-20A would be the J-20AS.
Although the possibility of a specialized strike or electronic warfare modification of the J-20S cannot be ruled out, the the degree of structural change required to make the aircraft a valuable strike aircraft or electronic warfare aircraft may be too important to make it worthwhile. For example, a specialized strike J-20S type should at least seek to carry longer and larger diameter strike weapons, such as KD-20 or YJ-12. However, these weapons are so large that they will require a larger internal weapon bay, which in turn will require a larger aircraft, which may lead to the development of a whole new kind of dedicated medium bomber. On the other hand, a small increase in the size of the weapon warehouse of the J-20S still requires structural reforms and development costs and time. Selective procurement seems more attractive: whether it is producing additional J-20 and J-20S, or purchasing more H-20 stealth bombers, or developing and purchasing stealth unmanned combat platforms, or a combination of the three.
The electronic warfare J-20S is more credible than the special strike modification. However, it will also require major structural modifications to install electronic warfare equipment. In addition, electronic warfare aircraft tend to favor pod-type electronic warfare systems, which provide greater flexibility and greater long-term potential than integrated conformal systems. Therefore, an electronic warfare J-20 may be required to carry an electronic warfare pod, even if it is invisible, it may be more likely to damage its radar cross-section than the introduction of a tandem cockpit.In the past few decades, the dual-seat fighter has been the main product of the Air Force, either as the main configuration of the fighter, or as the main variant of the single-seat aircraft. However, no two-seater fifth-generation fighters currently exist. The United States, as the first country to launch the fifth-generation fighter F-22 and F-35, also did not choose to pursue a two-seater modification.
New trends in air combat that have not yet been implemented include, but are not limited to: more autonomous and larger high-end drone formations (drones and unmanned fighters), including loyal wingmen and attack unmanned fighters, and more distributed airborne Early warning and control, stronger electronic warfare capabilities, and less attrition. In more complex and denser sensor launcher networks and electronic warfare environments, friendly and unfriendly stealth aircraft platforms with higher failure rates: including manned fighters and bombers, UAVs and missiles. Multi-domain networks and sensor transmitter networks will also continue to be strengthened and developed. In other words, the requirements for pilots to process information and maintain situational awareness will only increase as the complexity of the battlefield space increases.
It is easy to imagine the future air battlefield containing dozens or even hundreds of stealth aircraft of friendly and enemy forces, under the weight of widely used stealth attack missiles and distributed electronic warfare. In a dense sensor and network environment, it integrates multi-domain assets including friendly naval formations and potential space systems for land-based long-range strike systems, as well as a large number of friendly and enemy drones, and unmanned personnel performing a series of different tasks. drive plane. Of course, further developments in sensor fusion and artificial intelligence (AI) technology can help pilots keep up with future demands. However, even with these advances, the simultaneous tasks and decision-making of a single aircraft will be limited by the number of pilots on the aircraft.
China's domestically developed J-20 stealth fighter jet could in the future be equipped with directed-energy weapons, and it can also spawn variants for early warning, unmanned flight and drone control, Chinese military experts predicted in January 2022. "I believe our industrial departments can turn some of our ideas into reality, including those from the current trend of aviation main battle equipment," Wang Mingliang, a Chinese military expert, was quoted as saying in a China Central Television (CCTV) program on 22 January 2022. The J-20 could be equipped with directed-energy weapons, or it could be fitted with more powerful radar and fire control systems and become a small early warning aircraft, Wang predicted. It is also possible that the J-20 could become capable of unmanned flight, Wang said, noting that the J-20 could also conduct coordinated operation with drones by leading them, or commanding a drone swarm in combat.
In early 2020, state broadcaster CCTV reported that China was developing an airborne laser attack pod. Chinese defense firms have also publicly displayed laser defense weapon systems at exhibitions, like the LW-30, which could use a directional-emission high-energy laser to intercept aerial targets. Lasers are a great tool for aerial interception because there is no time delay, but it requires a large amount of energy to be effective and that is the issue that must be addressed for it to be mounted on an aircraft, analysts said.
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