China shocks analysts by Flight Testing 5th gen JXX Stealth fighter


While the Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi is flight testing its T-50 PAKFA–the world is watching the tests very closely. Analysts are surprised that China too is testing its 5th generation aircraft (which it calls 4th generation). Beijing thinks that the F-22 is a 4th generation aircraft while the West considers it a 5th generation stealth fighter. With $30 Billion China building J-xx 5th generation fighter.

Shenyang J-XX: J-12, J-13, F-XX, J-XX (or J-X or XXJ) is a name applied by Western intelligence sources to describe a programme or programmes by the People’s Republic of China to develop one or more new fourth- or fifth-generation fighter aircraft. In 2002,Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that Shenyang Aircraft Corporation had been selected to head research and development of the new fighter, a claim repeated in New Scientist the same week. However, a 2006 article in Military Technology referred to three designs; J-12 & J-14 by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation and J-13 by Chengdu Aircraft Corporation.

According to the report from Jane’s, development of the subsystems, including the engine and weapon suite for the next generation fighter, has been under way for some time.

If we ignore the war of  nomenclature–the fact remains that Chinese are at par with or possibly ahead of the Russian stealth race.


As for the Chinese 5th generation fighter (or 4th generation as they call it), it has always been a battle between SAC and CAC. We’ve received a lot of mixed/contradictory news over the so called J-XX in the past few years. People first speculated that it will be developed by SAC due to the model they saw in Zhuhai 2002. By 2007, we started to receive news that CAC’s design was actually awarded the contract. At the same time, many people also certainly speculated that China was going to join this project for the longest time, but that never happened. I think that China knew what was at the stake in such a cooperation. They would likely get an offer from the Russians for ToT and some development work. Although, the Russians would freeze the design according to their needs and keep some of the trade secrets to themselves. China PLA blog

China Close To Test 5th Gen Fighter–usually tagged as F-XX, but some call it by the moniker J-14

A Chinese fighter of nominally the same technology generation as the Lockheed Martin F-22 will soon enter flight testing, while a jet airlifter larger than the Airbus A400M should be unveiled by year-end.

Beijing’s fighter announcement suggests a serious failing in U.S. intelligence assessments, mocking a July 16 statement of U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates that China would have no fifth-generation fighters by 2020. Industrial competition looks more remote than strategic competition, however, since China will want to fill domestic requirements before offering the aircraft abroad, even if it judges export sales to be a wise policy.

The new fighter “is currently under development,” says Gen. He Weirong, deputy air force chief. “[It] may soon undertake its first flight, quickly enter flight testing and then quickly equip the forces.

“According to the current situation, [the entry into service] may take another eight to 10 years,” he adds.

No details of the aircraft were given, but it is almost certainly designed for supersonic cruise without afterburning. In April, Adm. Wu Shengli, the navy chief, listed supercruising fighters among equipment that his service needed. Notably, all the other equipment on his wish list looked quite achievable by the end of the next decade, matching the timing that the air force now suggests for the fighter.

China classifies aircraft of the F-22’s technology level as fourth-generation fighters, although they are called fifth-generation aircraft in the West. China’s current advanced fighter, the J-10, is locally called a third-generation aircraft, which in Chinese terms means that it is comparable with the Lockheed Martin F-16.

Work on “the fourth-generation aircraft is now proceeding intensely,” He says.

Whether the upcoming fighter is really comparable with the F-22 remains to be seen. Low radar reflectivity would not be surprising, since aircraft and missiles with stealthy shapes are now popping up in many countries, including South Korea as recently as last month (AW&ST Oct. 26-Nov. 2, p. 42). But sensor performance, information fusion and maximum supercruise speed would also be assessed critically in measuring a claim to have caught up with technology levels that the U.S. did not deploy until 2005.

The existence of a Chinese fifth-generation fighter, usually tagged J-XX, has been rumored for years without official confirmation.

If the aircraft does go into service before 2020, then at that time China may well have jumped past Britain, France and other Western European countries in terms of deployed, domestically developed combat-aircraft technology. That will depend on how quickly those countries move to field combat drones to replace current strike aircraft, says Andrew Brookes of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Brookes takes seriously the Chinese objective of technology equivalent to the F-22, and he sees no reason to doubt that the F-22 would be the standard against which they would judge their design. The know-how can be imported.

“The Russians have the technology and the Chinese have the money,” he says. “If they really set that as a target, then I think they can do it.”

The aircraft may not bother Western manufacturers in export markets, Brookes suggests, simply because an equivalent of the F-22 would be a destabilizing export that China would be prefer to keep to itself.

Even if China decides that it wants to export the fighter, Lockheed Martin should by then be well entrenched with the F-35, which should be mature and reliable at that point. Other manufactures may not be so well placed, however.

Gen. He made his remarks during an interview on China Central Television as part of the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the air force of the People’s Republic of China. (The general’s surname is pronounced as “her” but without the “r.”)

China is probably working on two fifth-generation concepts, says Richard Fisher of the International Assessment and Strategy Center. One of those concepts, appearing most commonly in bits and pieces of evidence that have turned up from time to time, would be a heavy twin-engine fighter probably of about the same size as the F-22. The other is a single-engine aircraft probably closer to the Lockheed Martin F-35.

Gen. He could be referring to either of the aircraft when predicting an entry into service during the next decade. Fisher’s bet is that he is talking about the twin-engine concept.

Like Brookes, Fisher believes China is realistically aiming at the F-22’s technology level. “One has to assume that the People’s Liberation Army is confident in its projections, as it almost never makes such comments about future military programs, especially one that has been as closely held as its next-generation fighter.

“As such, one has to be asking very hard questions: How did the U.S. intelligence community get this one wrong? And inasmuch as no one expects the F-35 to replace the F-22 in the air superiority role, is it time to acknowledge that F-22 production termination is premature and that a much higher number is needed to sustain deterrence in Asia?”

In his July 16 speech, Gates said that even in 2025 China would have but a handful of fifth-generation aircraft.

The new Chinese fighter could come from the Chengdu or Shenyang plants of Avic Defense.

Gen. He says the Chinese air force plans to emphasize development of four capabilities: reconnaissance and early warning, air strike, strategic supply, and air and missile defense.

The J-10 began large-scale service entry in 2006, state media say.

When Wu raised the prospect of a supercruising fighter, an easy answer seemed to be an advanced version of the J-10. That looks less likely now that He describes the future concept as a full generation ahead of the J-10.


“I believe the Chinese have a difficult road if their design is tied to the J-10,” says a U.S. Air Force officer involved in the development of the F-35. “Significantly reduced signature requires more than coatings. It requires an integrated design philosophy with the right shaping, the right structure and the right surface coatings.”

Fisher assumes that China is developing improved fourth-generation fighters in parallel with the fifth generation.

The existence of the airlifter has been known for several years, if only because pictures of it have appeared fleetingly in presentations by the Chinese aviation conglomerate Avic.

As expected, it turns out to be a product of Avic’s large-airplane subsidiary, Avic Aircraft and, more specifically, of the subsidiary’s core plant, Xi’an Aircraft.

Avic Aircraft General Manager Hu Xiaofeng says the airlifter is in the 200-metric-ton class and will be unveiled at the end of this year.

In fact, its design has already unveiled in pictures shown by state media. The four-engine aircraft adopts the universal high-wing, T-tail configuration. The wing is mounted on top of the circular body, rather than passing through a deep segment of it and cutting out much of the usable cross-section. In that respect it is like the A400M, Ilyushin Il-76 and Kawasaki C-X but unlike the C-17, whose embedded wing presents less frontal area.

The main gear of the Chinese aircraft is housed in very protuberant sponsons, like those of the C-17.

A photograph of the cockpit shows five electronic displays of moderate size and conventional transport-style control columns. Engines are not revealed but would presumably be imported from Russia. A wind-tunnel model shows the engines are enclosed in long nacelles, like those of the Perm PS-90 from Russia.

The PS-90 has a standard maximum thrust of 35,300 lb. in its latest version. The C-17, with a gross weight of 265 tons, is powered by four Pratt & Whitney F117 engines of 40,400 lb. thrust.

The airlifter’s fuselage appears to be of conventional metal construction. The aircraft will be significantly larger than the A400M, which has a 141-metric-ton gross weight.

Hu says it has been independently developed in China. However, his parent company, Avic, has a long history of cooperation with Ukrainian airlifter specialist Antonov.China Close To Testing Next-Gen Fighter | AVIATION WEEK

So, why did China not cooperate with the Russians. I think China realizes that it has enough aerospace technology base to be able to develop a true 5th generation fighter. At the same time, the Russians would always be the primary partner in such a project. It would be hard to imagine China wanting to act second-fiddle and be locked out of a large part of the development process and some of the advanced technologies. By working with the Russians, China would not only pay a majority of the development but also continuously pay Russians for certain parts of the frame, maintenance/repairs, extra supplies of the engine and maybe even missile/avionics cost. In the end, China has enough faith in AVIC1 to be able to develop this fighter. China PLA blog

On November 9, General He Weirong, deputy commander of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), confirmed long-standing speculations that the PLAAF is developing fifth-generation fighters (fourth-generation in Chinese standard), which may be in service within 8 to 10 years, and certainly by 2020. During an interview with state-owned China Central Television (CCTV) two days ahead of the 60th anniversary of the PLAAF on November 11, Deputy Commander He announced that the next-generation fighter would soon undergo its first flight, closely followed by flight trials (Xinhua News Agency, November 9). The senior military officer’s disclosure reflects the considerable progress that the PLAAF has made in force modernization, which has exceeded Western expectations in terms of the pace of development and the capabilities of its defense industrial base. While China remains several steps behind the United States in operationalizing its advanced fighter jets, the PLA’s rapid military modernization has raised concerns among U.S. allies in the region that the military balance is beginning to tilt toward China’s favor.

In an interview with Global Times, PLAAF Commander Xu Qiliang stated, “superiority in space and in air would mean, to a certain extent, superiority over the land and the oceans” (Global Times, November 2), thereby highlighting the PLAAF’s position in Chinese military planning. At an event commemorating the PLAAF’s 60th anniversary, President Hu Jintao heralded a “new chapter” in the development of the PLAAF (Global Times, November 10).

China’s fifth-generation fighters will reportedly have 4S capabilities: stealth, super cruise, super maneuverability and short take-off. According to Air Force Colonel Dai Xu, “its most striking characteristic is the capability of invisibility, which also could be called low detectability” (Global Times, November 10). The U.S. F-22 Raptor serves as the gold standard of fifth-generation fighters, which is currently the only fifth-generation fighter in service among all the world’s armed forces. According to General He’s interview, Chengdu Aircraft, the country’s leading fighter manufacturer, is reportedly developing the fighter with Shenyang Aircraft (Xinhua News Agency, November 9).

General He’s startling revelation that the next-generation fighter may be in service by 2020 stands in stark contrast to the Chinese habit of closely guarding its military capabilities, yet consistent with a recent trend that reflects the Chinese Armed Force’s growing confidence in its military strength. During an interview with the official Xinhua News Agency back in September, Defense Minister Liang Guanglie proclaimed that, “Our [China’s] capabilities in waging defensive combat under modern conditions have taken a quantum leap … It could be said that China has basically all the kinds of equipment possessed by Western countries, much of which reaches or approaches advanced world standards” (Xinhua News Agency, September 21),

Indeed, an ongoing survey conducted by Global Times among its Chinese users revealed some telling observations about how they perceive China’s security environment and PLA airpower. The short four-question survey asks the respondents questions ranging from where they think the biggest security threat to China in the future will come from to how they rate China’s airpower and what type of air force should be developed in the future. The first question, which asks how respondents view China’s security environment, 46 percent of the 9,335 who answered said that they think the biggest security threat to China comes from the sea, while 43 percent responded that it is airborne. The second question asked respondents to rate China’s air force, and 50.8 percent rated the Chinese Air Force as average, while 44.9 percent rated it as weak. The third question asked respondents what kind of airforce China should develop, and an overwhelming majority, 75.3 percent, responded that China ought to develop a strategic air force capable of covering the entire globe. The final question asks respondents where China should place its emphasis with regard to air force development, and the majority—47.6 percent—responded that China’s air force should develop a space-based combat unit (satellites, space weapons, etc.), while 21.3 percent responded that China’s emphasis should be placed on developing large airlift platforms (strategic bombers and cargo aircraft, etc.) (, November 17).

In light of China’s rapid air force modernization, Japan is increasingly concerned about Chinese regional air superiority. A Kyodo News report cited by the Global Times quoted Andrei Chang, editor-in-chief of the Canada-based Kanwa Defense Review Monthly, as saying that the PLAAF currently has 280 J-11s, whose combat performance is comparable to Japan’s Air Self Defense Forces’ 200 F-15s, and 140 J-10s, which are a match for the F-16s. According to a Japanese military source, “even though [Japan] has a disadvantage in numbers at the moment, but combined with its airborne early warning and control system Japan can win in terms of quality.” Yet, the source cautioned that, “once China deploys its AEWC [KJ-2000, which were on display at the October 1 National Day Parade] … Japan’s air superiority will gradually diminish” (China Daily, November 11; Global Times, November 12).

China’s Fifth-Generation Fighters and the Changing Strategic Balance , Publication: China Brief Volume: 9 Issue: 23November 19, 2009 12:51 PM Age: 48 days. By: Russell Hsiao, Publication: China Brief Volume: 9 Issue: 23

Recently, we’ve received two pieces of news. The first one is an enthusiastic report on WS-15. The article just got really excited about using digital design for developing WS-15, but it did not really explain how well the project really is doing. According to some online sources, the engine should be ready in the middle to later part of next decade. The thrust performance is designed toward matching F-119, but it’s hard to think that WS-15 would be as reliable and stealthy as F-119. We also got one final confirmation from CAC that they got the main design work for the 5th generation fighter. Now, the production facility of SAC may still be used to produce a large part of the 5th generation fighter, but PLAAF clearly likes CAC’s design better. SAC will be saddled with the design for the naval fighter, future J-11 variants and UAV/UCAVs. CAC now has the upgraded J-10, the 5th generation fighter, the global hawk-like UAV and the JF-17 projects to work on. After SAC is done with J-8IIs (hopefully soon), SAC basically only has J-11 variants and UAVs to work on. Also, what does XAC have after JH-7A? I presume bomber or fighter-bomber projects, but there really isn’t a good report verifying much of anything. Also, it’s interesting that PLAAF selected CAC’s design over SAC despite neither firm having built a prototype. CAC will now be in charge of getting some built soon that will use 2 WS-15 engine (or maybe WS-10 series in the beginning), radar (by probably 14th institute) and integrating different avionics together. CAC is already getting a lot of experience developing a new generation of avionics on the upgraded J-10. The 5th generation plane should take that up a notch to be able to fighter in the new environment. A new generation of missiles are also being developed for future fighters. We’ve seen/heard a 5th generation SRAAM, a successor MRAAM to PL-12 and a Metor-like ramjet powered LRAAM. CAC has shown that it can integrate all of this in the J-10 project. So, I think PLAAF is making the right decision to pick it ahead of SAC for the 5th generation design work. At current time, I’ve been reading 2015 as the year that this plane will join service. I think this is kind of optimistic, because they are not expecting first flight until 2012.

—Moin Ansari

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