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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.

Shenyang J-XXBy 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.

On November 8, 2009, CCTV’s “Face to Face” program conducted an exclusive interview with the Deputy Air Force Commander General He Weirong. "China's fourth-generation fighters are now in full swing and are being developed. According to relevant information, the first flight may be carried out soon, and the first flight will be tested soon. Equip troops quickly . According to the current situation, there may be eight to ten years left."

According to the only two photos released to the public by 2009, China’s next-generation fighter aircraft is closer to the YF-23, the unsuccessful candidate of the fourth-generation aircraft in the United States, but with canard wings. The most distinctive design of China's next-generation fighter aircraft and YF-23 is the camber V-shaped all-moving tail , which replaces the traditional structure of vertical tail + horizontal tail.

The design of the all-moving V-shaped tail is extremely beneficial for improving the stealth characteristics of the aircraft. And because the control surface and corresponding control mechanism are reduced, it also helps the aircraft reduce weight and reduce drag. However, in addition to the control surface load problem, a test of this kind of design inevitably faces is the complexity of the flight control system.

YF-23 adopted a large-scale tail wing design to ensure stealth ability, but the corresponding tail efficiency is also reduced. In contrast, China's next-generation fighter aircraft adopts a small-scale outward tilt design, which is at the lower limit of stealth requirements. It is the result of comprehensively weighing stealth and maneuverability.

The deflection control of the V-shaped tail is quite complicated, and the multi-purpose design will inevitably increase the complexity and development risk of the flight control system. Since the fly-by-wire flight control system was applied to the third-generation fighters, most of the first-class fighters with conventional aerodynamic layouts have strayed on this, causing fighter crashes. If the unconventional layout is adopted, the flight control is more difficult, and the YF-23 has not been favored by the conservative US Air Force, and one of the important reasons is also the same.

If an aircraft with a V-shaped tail adopts a thrust vectoring engine, the above series of problems may be alleviated, which is also good for improving maneuverability and agility. However, the YF-23 did not use a thrust vectoring engine. First, the thrust vectoring engine of the United States was not fully mature at that time, and the use of it would further increase the risk of development. Second, its design philosophy was excessively pursuing stealth capabilities.

YF-23's top-mounted grooved tail nozzle is derived from the B-2 rear fuselage design, which can reduce the aircraft's rearward radar reflection cross-sectional area and improve infrared stealth capabilities. This design is suitable for bombers, but not necessarily for fighter jets. The top-mounted grooved tail nozzle also makes the engine nozzle unable to deflect in vector. Russia’s AL-41 thrust vectoring engine has basically matured. If China’s next-generation fighter can adopt Russian-made or domestically-made high-thrust thrust vectoring engines, it will achieve the coordination and unity of stealth capability, mobility and agility. From the picture, the tail of China's next-generation fighter aircraft has reserved space for maneuvering the tail nozzle of the thrust vectoring engine.

Since 2008, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) had worked to design and manufacture fifth generation jet plain design concepts, both for its own use and to sell on a global scale. The Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (J-20) and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (J-31) are subsidiaries of the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC). These two companies have been working on the designs of the super jets.

J-20 is closer to becoming operational it is expected to reach initial operating capability (IOC) by 2018. As both jets are still in the prototype stage, their exact capabilities are not certain. However, it is speculated that the J-20 will have a long-range strike system capable of reaching anywhere in the Western Pacific region, and include a stealth design; the first of its kind in the PRC, reports National Interest.

It is predicted that in a conflict, the J-20 would likely be positioned in air-to-air combat with the mission of limiting the enemy’s radar coverage and strike range. While the J-20 is expected to have superior air combat maneuvering (ACM) abilities, the J-31 will be the fighter for the PLA to perform anti-access area-denial (A2AD) strategies in the Western Pacific.

While the J-20 is slightly faster, with a maximum speed of Mach 2.5 compared to Mach 2 for the J-31, both jets have a combat radius of approximately 2,000km (1242 miles). Some reports suggest that the US officials believe that the J-31 will match or exceed the proficiencies of US fourth generation fighters such as the F-15 Strike Eagle and F/A-18 Super Hornet, and could possibly even compete with the F-22 or F-35.

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Page last modified: 01-08-2021 14:08:48 ZULU