There may be more unknown details of relevance to the Chinese J-20 5th generation stealth fighter than there are known specifics, but the People’s Liberation Army has been writing about its J-20 in various aspects for many years, so there are a handful of key relevant observations to make about the extent of the threat it may pose.
J-20: To what extent is it a threat?
At first glance, US Congressional reports and Pentagon trials have deemed the stealthy airframe to be what might be called a “transparent” copy of 5th-generation US stealth technology.
This possibility, and the visible similarities in stealthy configuration between the J-20 and the F-35 and F-22, have been cited in several Pentagon reports, all as part of a longstanding and publicly documented concern about the Chinese theft of US military technology.
The J-20 appears stealthy, having a standard stealth blend-wing body shape, rounded fuselage, little to no protruding structures that could generate a returning radar signature, and what appears to be an internal weapons bay devoid of pylons. External.
Although many have drawn comparisons between the J-20 and the F-35, the J-20‘s apparently twin-engine setup looks a bit like the F-22. Also, the J-20’s twin wings are nothing like the F-35’s. In addition, the J-20’s twin-wing configuration is somewhat different from existing F-22 or F-35 designs, as its twin-wing fuselage is longer and larger than that of US airliners Fifth generation.
Although available specifications published by Aerocorner say the J-20 is almost 5 meters longer than the F-22, the biggest differences appear to be the maximum takeoff payload and fuel capacity.
According to Aerocorner, the length of the J-20 is 23 meters, while that of the F-22 is 18.9 meters.
Aerocorner reports that the J-20 flies with a fuel tank of 4,166 gallons, compared to 2,400 for the F-22. This disparity translates into enormous autonomy. This disparity translates into a huge difference in range, as the J-20 has a range of almost 3,000 km more than the F-22.
According to the spec sheet, the J-20 can reach a range of 5,926 km, which puts Taiwan very close to mainland China, while the F-22 has a range of 2,963 km. However, with two unarmored external fuel tanks, an F-22 can travel more than 1,864 km, although an aircraft in this configuration will compromise air combat capability and speed.
As a longer, twin-winged stealth fighter, the J-20 is probably much less maneuverable than an F-22 and, therefore, less likely to challenge the Raptor for air supremacy in air-to-air combat. However, once over the target area, the J-20 seems to have a much higher payload capacity to drop munitions, one reason the J-20 is so much slower than the speedy F-22; the specifications indicate that the speed of the F-22 is 1,963 knots and that of the J-20 1,333 knots.
The payload is also vastly different, as the J-20 can take off with 27,998 pounds of internal and external weaponry, while the F-22 can take off with a fraction of that amount, 3,915 pounds. This would suggest that a lighter and faster air-to-air fighter like the F-22 would be well positioned to destroy a J-20 in the air relatively quickly and effectively, depending on the range and fidelity of the weapons sensors, the precision targeting, and aiming technology.
Even the F-35, a multirole fighter with more payload than an F-22, operates with a takeoff payload of 18,000 pounds of internal and external weapons. This means that a J-20 can operate with longer dwell times over target areas, drop a much higher percentage of bombs in a given mission, and certainly go thousands of miles further in terms of range unless an F-22 flies with low-stealth external fuel tanks.
Powertrain comparisons also seem to heavily favor the F-22, although Chinese newspapers report that the J-20 is now built with a domestically produced WS-15 engine, the first of its kind. Although it is unclear to what extent this influences performance, it seems unlikely that a J-20 could rival an F-22 in the air.
It may not be well equipped to challenge an F-35 either, although a true comparison between the F-35 and F-22 with the J-20 may depend on lesser-known variables such as the range and accuracy of its sensors, targets, and weapons.
For example, the F-35 is known to fly with sensors that allow it to see and destroy enemy fighter jets at unprecedented distances. Therefore, if the J-20 were unable to match this distance, it would be very vulnerable to an F-35 or F-22, regardless of its maneuverability and weaponry.
Should a J-20 be spotted before it can spot an F-22 or F-35, other variables will no doubt matter less. Second, the accuracy of guidance, search, or course correction of air-to-air weapons would also likely be a deciding factor.
Ultimately, all of this is likely to depend on the ability of the aircraft to “network” with other nodes across multiple domains and operate with high-speed, potentially AI-enabled mission and computing systems. The answer to these lesser-known variables can determine which aircraft will ultimately be superior.
This might suggest that the US Air Force and Navy would do well to find and destroy the J-20s in the air before they overfly target areas where they could be positioned to use a large bomb-dropping capability to attack them. In order to inflict damage or overwhelm air defenses with numerous attacks by aircraft.