Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Stealth Dragon

The Peoples Republic of China's purported stealth fighter, the Jian-XX.

Northrop/McDonnell-Douglas YF-23 basks in the desert sun at Edwards AFB after losing to the Lockheed/Boeing YF-22.

Just as Aerojet delivered the last central boom to Boeing to build the last F-22 Raptor this past December, the comrades in Chinese aerospace have obviously been busy. It seems they are about to field a stealth fighter, pictures have been leaked, and the PRC so far has not denied them.

What is even more amazing is which aircraft the PRC has decided to copy. As the Jian-10 looks like the offspring of the Eurofighter Typhoon and Israeli Lavi, the new Jian-XX looks remarkably like the Northrop YF-23 Black Widow II with a few additions like canards and an intake borrowed from the Vought XF8U-3 Crusader III.

At the minimum this should call into question the DoD decision to cancel F-22 production after 187 airframes. Russia is already working on the T50 nex gen fighter and is looking to collaborate with India to build an fifth gen fighter tailored for India. Add in the PRC, it becomes ludicrous for Sec. of Defense Gates to say publicly all the United States needs is 187 F-22 Raptors to meet US needs. If seems Gates and the Pentagon knew of the Jian-XX and still made the above statements, this means Gates and senior leaders in the Petagon need to be fired for dereliction of duty. Or will Gates act like Clapper and fail to recall critical info when grilled?

Why am I being so harsh on Gates? Very simple, he has become a 'Yes' man who has put his job ahead of what he was hired to do, lead the Depeartment of Defense in protecting the United States. Parroting talking points from the White House that possibly endanger national security, which two former Cold War advesaries working on stealth fighters most definitely is, is tantamount to endangering this nation as a whole.


Ed Rasimus said...

Since I was at Northrop on the YF-23 development team, that bird is dear to my heart. We've come a long way since then.

When you see a Chinese proposal for a "stealth" aircraft with roughly an F-23 planform but "canards" and an intake that looks like it comes from a Crusader, you no longer are in the realm of meaningful stealth.

Canards give agility, but they play havoc with radar signature!

Regardless, the Gates/Obama decision to cap Raptors at 187 effectively emasculates the entire fleet. That number is simply too small to have a viable global fighter force. Take off training, development and attrition numbers then reduce by major maintenance down-time and you quickly find only a half-dozen squadrons. That's one wing for the western hemisphere and one for the eastern.

Things have to change quickly.

Anna said...

The only reason, as an amateur, I can think of for the canards is the PRC has not mastered the F-119 and its nozzles. So they went to canards to get the agility. Which probably forced them to go with that one big intake to avoid turbulent air spilling off the canards and being sucked into the engines if the intakes had been placed where the YF-23’s were.

Even with 15 plane squadrons that is only 10 squadrons leaving 37 for deep maintenance, attrition reserves, testing, and training. If we go with 12 plane squadrons of 10 squadrons, frees up more for secondary duties. But both assumptions ignore the 2002 AEF requirement for each AEW to have 24 F-22s in a squadron.

As you say all airplanes have to be cycled through inspections and depot work. And when you have so few airframes with a large mission tasking these few airplanes will be cycled far quicker than having at least 381 F-22s. You are right, this has to stop because it is gravely damaging to having a credible national defense.


SiM said...

In June 2009, while speaking at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, Defense Secretary Robert Gates defended his proposed cuts in the Air Force’s fighter fleet in Fiscal 2010 as part of overall changes to the US tactical air arm. He said under his plan—to cap F-22 production at 187, shed more than 250 legacy fighters, and rely on the F-35 production line henceforth as the sole active source of advanced stealth fighters—the US will still be left with a “numerical and technological edge” that will remain “extremely strong and far superior to that of any potential competitor for at least the next 15 to 20 years.” In fact, Gates said the US will have “roughly 1,200” fifth-generation combat aircraft in 2020, while “the Chinese will have zero.”

He couldn’t have been more wrong.


On Dec 29, 2010 Chinese bloggers reveled what may be China’s J-20 stealth Aircraft and hinted China would be conducting high-speed taxi tests this month. From preliminary estimates based on photographs the aircraft is about 70 feet long, too long to be a fighter but most likely a long-range interdiction or strike aircraft design similar to the role performed by the now retired F-117.

The aircraft was designed to be stealthy from head on only. The philosophy behind this design concept is to reduce its radar signature long enough in order to get close enough to launch missiles before being detected. An analysis of the engine configuration, a pair of Russian built Klimov 117S engines, and roomy internal bomb bays shows the aircraft has been estimated to weight about 8,000 lbs.

If you read these last two paragraphs you now know more about this Chinese stealth aircraft than Secretary Gates seems to know. In the Department of Defenses’ 2010 Annual Report on Security Developments Involving China, the Chinese stealth program was never even mentioned.


The most probable use of the J-20 will be in an Anti-Shipping role. To protect is water-ways from the American Navy and possibly, depending on its range, to strike at U.S. and Japanese bases in Japan. China is obsessed with protecting it borders and is designing and purchasing military hardware with the capability to do so.

Defense Secretary Gates has been more concerned with the repeal of “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell” and defense budget cuts to pay attention to the intelligence community’s warnings about real threats to the country. Maybe this congress will compel him to purchase more F-22s stop messing with F-35 development and do his job. For the last two years the man has been asleep on the watch.

Anna said...

SiM. its amazing how much information on the Jian-XX exists in the public domain. If it is meant to be a semi-stealthy strike fighter aimed at American carrier battle groups, then it would fit into PRC plans on retaking Taiwan. Which leads to another problem in the American defense establishment, can the F/A-18E/F hack being a fleet defense fighter armed only with AIM-120s?