The Chengdu J-20 is also known as the Mighty Dragon. It’s China’s fifth-generation fighter aircraft designed to strike fear into its enemies’ hearts. In this article, we will give you all the important details about the Chengdu J-20.
1. AIRCRAFT ORIGIN
This fighter aircraft’s origin began in the late 1990s, and it wasn’t until January of 2011 when the J-20 took its first flight. With this, China’s bragging rights in being the third country in the world to develop and test-fly a fully functioning fifth-generation stealth fighter jet, after the United States and Russia. Since then, China has been testing and developing this aircraft to match its competition in the west.
The J-20’s test flights continued, and in 2014, China’s air force, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, made several changes in the prototypes of the J-20, including new equipment and other devices. Some notable changes were the new stealth coating, restructured vertical stabilizers, and a new low observable intake. The Chinese Air Force made these changes to ensure that Chengdu J-20 will fulfill its multi-role missions over the years.
2. AIRCRAFT SPECIFICATIONS
As of 2018, the Chengdu J-20 costs around a hundred million U.S. Dollars per unit. Currently, these are the specifications, features, and capabilities this fighter jet has to offer. Starting with its size, the Chengdu J-20 is a single-seated fighter jet that is 23 meters (75.46 feet) long and 5 meters (16.40 feet) tall, with a wingspan of 15 meters (49.21 feet).
Given that this jet has stealth abilities being a fifth-gen fighter plane, the Chengdu J-20 also has other necessary capabilities a fifth-generation aircraft has to offer. In its cockpit, there are two LCD screens and a heads-up display (HUD). The pilot can then operate the jet through a traditional hands-on throttle and stick (HOTAS) system. Using the active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, the pilot can check for the target necessary information and transmit it directly to the fire control system.
3. AIRCRAFT FEATURES
The fire control system is one of the two methods, along with the engine management system, that the J-20 has on its modern fly-by-wire (FWB) system. The FWB system makes the pilot more focused on combat than flying the plane by replacing the aircraft’s standard manual flight controls with an electronic interface.
Another great feature this fighter jet has is its armament. The Chengdu J-20 carries a wide range of weapons such as an internal cannon for close-range combat missions, air-to-surface missiles, anti-radiation missiles, laser-guided bombs, and drop bombs. According to airforce-technology.com, the J-20 will comprise eight hardpoints and a large belly weapon bay to incorporate long-range air-to-air missiles (AAM), making it a powerhouse aircraft.
Furthermore, the Chengdu J-20 fighter aircraft possesses two Saturn 117S engines supplied by Russia, and each engine produces 32,000 lbs of thrust. Hence, it makes the performance of the J-20 increase at a rate of 304 m/s. It is also responsible for the 2,100 km/h (Mach 2.55) maximum speed of the Mighty Dragon.
4. AIRCRAFT COMPARISON
In an article from Business Insider, Benjamin Brimelow compared China’s J-20 stealth fighter to the United State’s F-22 Raptor. Brimelow wrote that, in a traditional dogfight, the J-20 would lose to the F-22 even with J-20’s close-ranged internal cannons.
The Chengdu J-20 also falls behind on the armament as the F-22 Raptor can carry four additional missiles. The report says that China is still behind compared to the United States when developing a powerful aircraft. Overall, the F-22 Raptor has the edge over the Chengdu J-20 with its higher speed, operational ceiling, superior stealth technology, and more experienced pilots.
According to aircraftcompare.com, China unveiled a new version of the aircraft, named J-20B, last July 8, 2020. Since then, it has already entered mass production, with the only modification made was its thrust vectoring control. Moreover, the Chengdu J-20 will not be available for export as China ruled it out, as stated on defensionem.com. This policy is similar to the United State’s Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.
5. AIRCRAFT DEVELOPMENT
Over the years, the Chengdu J-20 has faced controversies regarding the development of this stealth fighter jet. In April of 2009, The Wall Street Journal reported unknown attackers, which appeared to originate from China compromising information from the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, according to the Pentagon.
Moreover, some speculations compromising the F-35 program may have helped develop the J-20. Hence, the J-20 has the potential to be a game-changer for the Chinese military and could prove to be a threat if war were to break out.
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