India vs Pakistan and Threat of War

Before visiting Pakistan, Robert Gates warned from New Delhi that, should 2007 Mumbai like incident occur again, India would attack Pakistan, meaning thereby that the past Mumbai killings have been solely attributed to Pakistan and if such an incident occurred again, responsibility would be that of Pakistan, and in retaliation, India would be perfectly justified to attack Pakistan. In this situation USA would not be in a position to restrain India. Rather it may support this venture.

The message is fraught with ominous consequences and therefore demands a clear assessment of our ability to respond, if such a threat develops. This assessment therefore, is based on existing ground realities, which determine the military power balance between Pakistan and India. No doubt, the Indian armed forces are numerically superior to Pakistan, but they suffer from some inherent weaknesses and, it will take them a long time to overcome these.

Indian armed forces are in the midst of a transition, – replacement of the obsolete Russian weapons system with high-tech American-Israeli-European weapons. India started this changeover in 2005 after signing the Strategic Partnership Agreement with USA and hopes to complete it by the year 2015. Already it has spent about a hundred billion dollars on the new acquisitions. Their entire military system at present therefore, is weak, because they have the old and absolute weapons and about thirty percent of the recently acquired new systems. They suffer from a predicament, similar to what we suffered in early seventies, because, USA bad abandoned Pakistan in 1965 and we had not been able to induct new weapons and equipment from other sources. India exploited this weakness and dismembered Pakistan. Thus, India suffering from such weaknesses, now, is not in a position to wage a full f1edged war against Pakistan.

India faces another serious problem, in that, despite their best efforts of the last forty years, they have failed to manufacture their own tanks, guns, cruise missiles, fighter aircrafts, battleships and submarines. This in essence, constitutes a major weakness of the Indian armed forces, because, the present day war cannot be won with weapons borrowed or purchased from others. And, contrary to the weaknesses of India and cognising the implications of self-reliance, Pakistan has achieved up to ninety percent of indigenisation of weapons and equipment. We have our own tanks, guns, cruise missiles, fighter aircrafts, battleships and submarines as well as we have a stock-pile of war reserves, of over forty days, as compared to just eleven days of war reserves in 1965 and seven days in 1971. Whereas India’s war reserves as of today are limited to 15 days only. Thus, Pakistan in this respect also enjoys a clear edge over India.

Pakistan has achieved up to ninety percent of indigenisation of weapons and equipment.

The third dimensional capability of Pakistan is, in the way of higher military education and superior military and operational strategy, which is the hallmark of our military leadership, and was demonstrated some twenty years back in 1989, during Ex-Zarb-e-Momin. The Offensive Defence concept was practised and over the period, has been actualised as the fundamental doctrine of war. Offensive Defence means that our forces having fixed the enemy, will carry the war into their territory. Compare it with the Cold Start doctrine of India, of fighting a war on two fronts, which is more of a fiction than a realistic military doctrine.

Mr Robert Gates, as well as the Indian military planners, while taking into cognisance the existing military balance between Pakistan and India, must also consider the new phenomenon of the Asymmetric War, which, during the last thirty years, has established the supremacy of Men and Missiles, over the most modern and technologically superior armed forces of the world, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Kashmir. The Asymmetric War, in essence is the name of the Islamic Resistance, with its hardcore resting along the Durand Line. It is our strength. Thus, conventional as well as irregular armed forces, together provide the emerging shape of the Fourth Generation of modern warfare, as Joseph S Nye, the former Assistant Secretary of Defence USA and a professor of Harvard University, defines: “The hybrid wars, conventional and irregular forces combatants and civilians become thoroughly intertwined” to win wars and help establish the new order. In case, war is forced on Pakistan, it would be a long and decisive war, where new geo-political realities would emerge, establishing new frontiers of peace in the region.

Nuclear weapons are not the weapons of war because these have never been used as such. United States used it against the Japanese in 1945, which already had lost the war, nor had the capability to retaliate. American purpose was primarily diplomatic, i.e. to declare to the world that, America was entering the centre stage of world politics, to establish its global primacy and pre-eminence. There are other instances also, where nuclear powers, possessing hundreds and thousands of atomic weapons could not use them, to save themselves from very difficult and embarrassing situations. The Americans lost the war in Vietnam; the Soviets lost their empire in Afghanistan; the Israelis could not cover the shame of defeat at the hands of Hezbollah in 2005; the Americans having suffered defeat in Iraq, now are facing a worse defeat in Afghanistan, yet they find no recourse to use their nuclear capability. Their NATO partners are equally embarrassed, yet they cannot think of using their nuclear weapons to cover the shame of impending defeat. Similarly, India and Pakistan can fight only conventional wars and win or loose, but they dare not use nuclear weapons against each other, because it would destroy everything, leaving nothing but ashes, one could hope to capture and rebuild. And therefore, our people must not carry the wrong notion that Pakistan is powerful because it has nuclear capability. On the contrary, it is the conventional military capability, which provides security and lends resilience to the nation, as of now, and provides space to the po1itical government, to establish good governance.

Nuclear weapons are also great equalizer, between nuclear capable adversaries. “Between India and Pakistan, perfect deterrence exists” – declared George Fernandis, the former Defence Minister of India, after Pakistan demonstrated its capability in May 1998. And that precisely is the function of the weapons of mass destruction. Pakistan’s policy of Minimum Credible Nuclear Deterrence, supported by the Policy of Restraint, together serves the purpose of a stable nuclear deterrence. Nuclear capability also doesn’t compensate for the conventional military capability, and working on this principle the conventional military capability of Pakistan has been so developed as to make it a real symbol of national power, to defeat all aggression from within and outside.

Such are the ground realities, which determine the capabilities of our armed forces which cannot be wiped off by contrived constructs of our adversaries, nor Pakistan can be scared of going to the brink, if a war was forced on it. J F Dulles has rightly said: “If you are scared to go to the brink you are lost.” Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg (Retd)

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East meets West – Pakistan‘s Fighter Aircraft


PAF FC-20 /J-10B

PAF JF-17 THUNDER | Not many modern armed forces unite in their inventory, and particularly among their key assets, technology from two – in political terms – entirely opposite origins. It is more common in the countries of the former Soviet bloc where, since the fall of the iron curtain, Western technology slowly but ever increasingly found its way into countries primarily equipped with Russian weapon systems. In the past two decades the Middle East and southern countries of the Asian continent have become areas in which Western state-of-the-art weapon systems competed next to weapon systems from Russia or other former antagonists to lead these countries’ armed forces into a new age – globalisation in the political and industrial defence world.

These countries – not only geographically in between history’s current major players – slowly revolve the old political and economic structures in a natural process and, with their growing political self-confidence, create a new link between the cumbersome super powers which, mostly from behind the scenes, will shape the next decades.

Pakistan is one of these interesting examples, however, with a very unique character. Just as its neighbour and long-lasting political antagonist, India, it develops an increasingly emancipated character in its choice of new weapon systems as well as in its desire to further develop its domestic R&D as well as production capabilities. India currently is in the process of extensive trials for its future fighter aircraft programme (MMRCA) in which aircraft from the US compete against European as well as Russian solutions of the latest generations (see The final choice in this particular race will be a forward-looking one for the face of the Indian Air Force.

On the other side of the Thar Desert, the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) brings together an interesting mix of aircraft from all over the world and, in particular, from the US and China. Due to its historical development, the first aircraft to be used by the Pakistani Air Force were US- and UK-built aircraft. However, in 1965 Pakistan received its first fighter aircraft of Chinese origin: the Shenyang J-6. Since, fighter aircraft of the US as well as from France (the PAF still strongly relies on its French Dassault Mirage IIIs and Mirage Vs) have been operating next to Chinese fighter aircraft. A clear political development can be deduced from the history of fighter aircraft of the PAF: from the post-colonial influences to a regional power at the mercy of the political gravities to a growing national identity and self-determination.

Today, Pakistan is expecting to take delivery of its first of 18 ordered Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Block 52+ very soon (older versions of the F-16 have already been operating in Pakistan since 1982), bringing the total number of Pakistani F-16s to 54 when the last aircraft will be delivered as scheduled in December 2010. Furthermore, as various press sources have reported mid-November 2009, Pakistan has signed an agreement with China for the procurement of 36 Chengdu FC-20 (J-10 export version) to be delivered by 2015. Finally, Pakistan is also in the process of introducing a growing number of FC-1/JF-17 fighter aircraft, jointly developed by China’s Chengdu and the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) Kamra. With the first two small batch production aircraft having been delivered in 2007, Pakistan has since received a good dozen of these aircraft and, as reports Flight International, is expecting to introduce at least 150 domestically produced fighters into service (the number has increased to an estimated 200-250 aircraft).

This development would not only provide Pakistan with a significant number of state-of-the-art air combat assets but also brings together technology from the Far East and the West in an interesting unity. Many eyes of these two political and industrial camps will be glued to the PAF to gather information on this process and the other’s craftsmanship.

F-16 … FC-20 … JF-17

PAF Saab 2000 Erieye AEW&C aircraft.

As outlined above the PAF has been combining Western and Chinese aircraft since the 1960s, including bombers and trainer aircraft and is, furthermore, expecting to receive four Chinese Shaanxi Y-8W airborne early warning & control (AEW&C) aircraft equipped with AESA radar by 2011 that will be operating next to Pakistan’s brand-new Saab 2000 Erieye AEW&C aircraft. But let’s take a look at the three state-of-the-art fighter aircraft that will be racing Pakistan’s skies in the near future.

Pakistan’s newest member of the F-16 family, a two seat F-16D Block 52, has been unveiled on October 2009 at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas, facility. The ceremony was attended by the PAF Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Rao Quamar Suleman. The current order, dubbed “Peace Drive I”, is for 12 F-16Cs and six F-16Ds, powered by the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 engine, with an option for another 18 aircraft.

“The Pakistani and U.S. leadership has worked very hard to develop a strategic partnership between the two countries in order to achieve our common strategic interests,” said Rao Qamar. “If this relationship is to succeed, it has to be built on a solid foundation of trust between the two allies. This F-16 is not just an aircraft, but a capability for Pakistan. It is a symbol of trust and the relationship between Pakistan and the U.S.”

As the PAF explains on its homepage, “the PAF had originally planned its force structure to include than a hundred F-16s by the end of the century, but these plans could not be implemented because of the US embargo [of the 1990s due to Pakistan’s testing of a nuclear bomb]. The service is, thus, currently in the process of evaluating other high-tech fighter aircraft for procurement.”

The outcome of this process is quite clear: a stronger co-operation with China which obviously offers Pakistan not only to possibility to acquire new combat aircraft but also of jointly improving its domestic industrial capabilities. The Chengdu FC-20s to enter service in 2015 will replace the aging fleet of combat aircraft such as the Chinese F-7s (a version of the MiG-21 which has been recently upgraded) as well as the extensive fleet of Mirage IIIs and Vs. As the PAF explains, “Chinese systems such as the F-7s provide the staying power to absorb losses and to take punishment in the face of a much bigger adversary. Planned upgrades to equip these less capable fighters with modern radars, better missiles and ECM equipment will help enhance the PAF’s combat capability.”

The FC-20 is not among these less capable fighters. It is the export version, modified to Pakistan’s requirements, of one of China’s most capable multi-role fighter aircraft with a delta-wing and canard design. It was introduced into the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) in 2005 and in April 2006 the Pakistani cabinet approved the procurement of 36 of these aircraft which can be compared to the aircraft generation of the F-16, the Gripen or the Rafale.

Although a greater challenge for the Pakistani Air Force than the mere purchase of new assets, the development and introduction of the JF-17 (Pakistani designation for “Joint Fighter”) has continuously and obviously successfully proceeded. The first aircraft of this type took to the skies in 2003. The first small batch of pre-production aircraft was delivered to Pakistan for operational evaluation purposes in March 2007. The first Pakistani-manufactured JF-17 was rolled out and handed over to the PAF on 23 November 2009. On the occasion of the hand-over ceremony Rao Qamar said that 40 JF-17 would be produced by PAC Kamra within next three years and would be inducted in PAF replacing the existing aircraft. Furthermore, he confirmed that the first JF 17 Squadron would be established shortly. The JF-17 is a lightweight and low-cost multi-role fighter aircraft with a high manoeuvrability and beyond visual range (BVR) capability. It has advanced aerodynamics configuration and high thrust.

2018 – deadline for Taiwan invasion?

Recently, I’ve noticed some “big shrimps” on Chinese bbs mention that China is likely to invade Taiwan by 2018. We can all guess the reasonings, but will China be able to improve enough by then to make this possible?

I will just go through a list of projects related air force and navy that should be ready by 2018.

Varyag being moved to dry dock near the Dalian shipyards in late April 2009.

Aircraft Carrier – The symbol of super power status. According to all reports, it seems China will start with Varyag as the training carrier (and possibly attack helo carrier in the future) and then build 2 CATOBAR carrier by 2018. These 2 will be the first generation of Chinese carriers. From all reports, the suppliers have already supplied most of the parts. They are just waiting for the construction to start in the new Changxin shipyard. By 2015, we might see these carriers being launched and conducting sea tests. So, the next question is what kind of aerial fleet will support them.


J-11 Naval – Currently, China is working a twin-seated version of flankers based on su-30mkk called J-11BS. So, converting J-11B into a multi-role strike platform like F-15E. Needless to say, this flanker will have higher payload and longer range than the existing J-11B. The radar will be more multi-roled. It might get a powerful AESA radar when it is ready. The weapons on this plane will include all of the latest Chinese weapons like PL-12, PL-8B, KD-88, YJ-91, YJ-83K, LS-500, LS-6, FT series and next generation weapons like more SGBs, new SRAAM and LRAAM. This was chosen as the naval fighter ahead of J-10 due to PLAN’s requirements for more multirole capability + longer range. With the help they are getting from the Ukrainian. This might be ready to go by early next decade and fly off the Varyag.


Twin-Engined “J-10” – This possibility has been discussed for a long time and maybe J-10 is not a good name for it. But it seems that CAC has a project (that will sort of compete with 5th generation fighter) that will build a heavy fighter (although smaller than flankers) based on a lot of aerodynamic lessons from J-10. This fighter is supposed to be very stealthy, be able to supercruise without afterburners, have the latest avionics like AESA radar, built in IRST, more advanced EW suite and such. There are some talk that this might end up as the second generation of naval fighters, but that’s still a long time from now. The air force version should be ready by around 2012 (the upgraded Taihang engine should be available by then), but a possible naval version would come at a later date (possibly ready for the first indigenous carriers, > 2015).


Y-7 AEW – We have also seen pictures of Y-7 AEW. Knowing the success of Y-8 surveillence projects, I think the hardest part might be getting Y-7s to be able to fly off the indigenous CATOBAR carriers. This is another project that doesn’t need to be fielded before 2015.

Now, for the rest of the fleet.

095 – We’ve seen 093 pictures coming out and it has surprised many with more Western similarities than Russian features. 095’s reactor vessel is supposed to be finished by 2010. So, the construction of 095 should start by early 2010s and be finished and commissioned between 2016-2018 (using 093’s path). I think the goal of this submarine is to match Virginia, but whether that can be achieved is another story. Of course in the mean time, I would expect more 093s to be built to possibly 8?

096 – A new generation SSBN – not much details have come out, I’d suspect 094s would still handle majority of the action for the next decade. The number that I’ve typically seen speculated for 094 is 4 to 6.

SSGN – There has been some talk of SSGN development, but the progress of this is unknown.

052D/… – It looks like 052C was stopped for a few years due to JiangNan relocation + sorting out all the issues on 052B/C. But the new generation 052D is suppose to start construction in early 2008 in Changxin. We could easily see production of 2 or more per year until there are enough to replace the Ludas. Of course, each iteration will be slightly better than the previous one.

054 series – This is the lo-end of the combination. Future 054s should be using CODOG rather than CODAD propulsion according to what Richard Fisher’s article talked about. Whether the number of air defense missiles and ASW suite will change or not is not known at this point. We know that once they decide on producing 054s, they can build them very fast (more than 4 per year). So, it’s quite possible we will have 30 054s by 2018.

Conventional Submarines – The mass production of Yuan (039A) has recently started. It’s hard to see that this will continue more than the mass production run of 3rd variants of Song. So, we might see 10 Yuan at most. Although, I think China will soon be developing a class of conventional submarine to match U-214, Scorpene and Amur. I’m guessing Oyashio and Collins are still in a league of their own. Either way, this new class will most likely endure a long initial production process like Song did before mass production. Although judging from Song’s production of 4 per year (at its height), it shouldn’t be long before Yuan or this new diesel class replace all the Mings plus earlier Song class submarines.

071 and helo carriers – The first 071 is already in sea test. It looks like the displacement of 071 is over 20K tonnes and can carry about 2 Z-8s in the hangar + 2 or 3 on the helipad. A lot of people have been disappointed by what they view as inadequate air defense. But realistically speaking, LPDs really don’t need that much air defense. Also, it’s likely that future 071s will have some SAM launchers. Once they’ve sorted out all the problems in the design, we will probably see 1 being built per year. And we will likely see 5 to 10 071s by 2018 and they will probably be instrumental in any invasion attempt. At the same time, a helo carrier design is definitely being worked on. From PLA’s fascination with Western systems, I would guess it would go for something similar around the displacement of the WASP class. It would most likely field a combination of Z-8, helix, new 10 tonne helo, Z-15 naval and Z-10 naval. Although, I think it would be interesting to see whether China develops something like V-22 and/or VSTOL aircraft. I’ve definitely seen plans for this. As for numbers, I guess 2 or 3 by 2018? With 071 and aircraft carrier already in the work, PLAN don’t have that much resource left.

022 – We have seen these FACs come out at an extremely fast rate. By my calculation, their production should be finished in the next 5 years and form the basis of coastal defense for years to come. The number can go anywhere from 60 to 100.

Corvette- Although we haven’t seen any ships of this class come out, it’s clear that China will need something like this for ASW duties and such. In between 022 and 054 series, there exists a need for something that is between 1500 and 2000 tonnes in displacement. We’ve seen a SWATH ship coming out recently possibly as an intelligence ship and equipping with a Chinese equivalent of SURTASS, but that should not eliminate this requirement.

Supporting fleet – We’ve seen other ships coming out recently like Medical ship, replenishment ships, new MCM ships (like 804, 805), Yuanwang and such. These are not noticed, but they would definitely support any long distance expedition or invasion against Taiwan. It seems from these past development that China is not neglecting these supporting units.

For the remaining air force related ones:


J-XX – This is the code word given in the west on the 5th generation PLAAF jet. The project is believed to be carried out by SAC. Although, it probably is a combined effort between SAC and CAC. The twin-engined J-10 is supposed to be developed to counter F-35 and be able to defend on home soil against F-22. Whereas the aim of J-XX is to be on par with F-22. So when will this be ready? With the recent work on avionics, I don’t think developing a word class avionics system will be the most difficult part. So, the two biggest problem are stealth and engine. Can China develop the necessary stealth technology to make J-XX as invisible as F-22. That remains to be seen, but work on the recent PLAN ships and even up close pictures of J-10’s intake provide confidence for J-XX. The engine will most likely start off with an upgraded version of Taihang with a T/W ratio of 9 to 10 (The version with 9 is suppose to come out with twin-engined J-10) and then switch over to the much talked about WS-15. WS-15 seems to be ready by 2015-2018, so I would say that J-XX will probably join service at around that time.


J-11BS/J-10 mod – The remaining influential part of the air force will probably consist of J-11BS (China’s Su-34/F-15E) and the “stealthy” J-10. The stealthy J-10 supposedly has just test flied recently. It will have much better avionics, lower RCS and eventually use better engine than the current J-10. It will definitely be holding down the fort until twin-engined J-10 comes along. I suspect that due to its cheaper cost as a single engined fighter, it will be procured even when J-XX and twin-engined “J-10” are established in the force.

AAMs/Engines – Timelines for engines seem to be 2008 for WS-13 (since it already is in the midst of long duration testing), 2010 or earlier for the higher thrusted WS-12 (which unlike WS-13 is apparently not a copy of RD-93), 2010 for the T/W ratio = 9 WS-10, 2014 for T/W ratio > 10 WS-10 and 2017 for WS-15. As for AAM, there seems to be a need for a 5th generation SRAAM, a modern LRAAM in the mode of KS-172 and continuous upgrade to PL-12. Past interviews have mentionned that these projects are well under way.


Large Transport – The demise of the IL-76 has untold number of consequences for PLA. The most notable ones are lack of airframes for KJ-2000 and large transport. There are other ones too. PLA at the moment is forced to use Y-8 as the platform to test out all of its new surveillence platforms. Some of which may make more sense on a large transport like the proposed 60 tonne aircraft under development. Other than large AWACS, other uses for the large transport includes refueller, ABL platform and E-8 Jstars like surveillence aircraft. Even with Antonov’s help, it probably won’t be ready until the middle of next decade. Even then, production will be slow. So, it looks like PLA will have a tonne of trouble with IL-76 situation until then. I would put this as one of the biggest trouble spot for any invasion attempt.


Attack Helicopter – It looks like Z-10 is almost ready to join service. Even domestic engines for Z-10 are close to being ready. Although due to the cost, Z-10 may not be fielded in large numbers.

Support Helicopter – Right now, Z-8F and Z-9 are the other two main helicopters in service with PLA. HC-120 seems to have cornered the trainer helo market. Mi-26 will be inducted in some numbers to offer its 20 tonne of payload. Mi-17 will be continuously purchased due to its low cost and good performance/reliability (better cost/performance ratio than Z-8F). The 10 tonne helicopter and Z-15 should both be ready by the beginning of the next decade. The 10 tonne helicopter would be an idea naval helicopter platform to replace helix, whereas Z-15 naval could be used for frigates. By 2018, I would expect both of these platforms to be equipped in sufficient numbers to resolve China’s problems with transport and naval helicopter.

In general, many of the major ticket items we know about are finishing from 2012 to 2016. It’s part of China’s drive to further close its gap with US military. Whether or not the platforms will be developed on time and the performance/training on these platforms will decide the future conflict.

Source: China Defence Blog

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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