Fighter aircraft are integral parts of any military setup. Without having world-class fighter jets at their disposal, a nation risks conceding air superiority in war, which is essentially the equivalent of waving a white flag. As such, it is downright essential to divert plenty of resources towards either manufacturing or purchasing fighter jets.
Three of the best warplanes on the planet are the Chengdu J-20, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, and the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. The J-20, often referred to as the mighty Dragon, is China’s mightiest and fastest fighter jet, while the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 are two of the USA’s finest.
People often compare This trio on all fronts of the war, with most agreeing that they are head and shoulders above the rest of the fighter jet world. Let’s see how the Chengdu J-20, the Lockheed F-22, and the Lockheed F-35 stack up against each other.
Here is a detailed comparison of the J-20 with its American rivals on 10 parameters to see which one comes out on top.
The Chengdu J-20 is a powerhouse of a fighter jet. It houses two Shenyang WS-10C engines that are supplemented by an after-burning turbofan. When the afterburner runs, the power unit produces 142 to 147 kN (32,000 to 33,000 lbs) of thrust, making it China’s mightiest and fastest fighter jet.
In contrast, the F-22 Raptor is powered by two Pratt and Whitney F-119-PW-100 augmented turbofans that produce 156 kN (35,000 lbs) thrust with the afterburner activated. The F-35 Lightning II has only one Pratt and Whitney F-135-PW-100 after-burning turbofan attached to it, but it boasts 191 kN (43,000 lbs) of thrust, surpassing its counterparts by a distance.
The Chengdu J-20 called the mighty Dragon, flies just like one. Its wingspan stands at 13.01 meters, making it look majestic in flight. It’s almost similar to the wingspan of the F-22 Raptor, which edges it out at 13.56 meters.
However, there is no noticeable difference in the way the two aircraft fly. The F-35 Lightning II boasts a wingspan of 11 meters, which is less than its counterparts. This affects its wing loading, trumping both the jets above in the lift it produces.
No fighter jet can do its job if its power isn’t backed up by fuel efficiency. The amount of fuel it can hold on a full tank is crucial to its impact on a mission. The Chengdu J-20 has a fuel capacity of 26,000 liters, setting the benchmark of its class and the gold standard for other fighter aircraft to live up to.
The F-22 Raptor matches the mighty Dragon exactly, boasting a fuel capacity of 26,000 liters as well. The F-35 Lightning II lags behind its peers in this department, only having a fuel tank capacity of 18,250 liters.
In addition to fuel capacity, it’s also important for a fighter jet to have a high mileage. The Chengdu J-20 has a range of 3,400 miles, thanks to the fuel that goes into its two external fuel tanks. It is one of the most fuel-efficient fighter aircraft in the world and outclasses even the best ones, including the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II.
Weight is an important parameter to consider while creating a fighter jet. It plays a key role in maneuverability, which is why engineers focus on making the aircraft as light as possible. The Chengdu J-20’s weight stands at 17,000 kilograms.
In contrast, the F-22 Raptor is the heaviest of the bunch, weighing 19,700 kilograms when empty and 29,410 kilograms when fueled. The winner in this department is the F-35 Lightning II, which only weighs 13,290 kilograms dry and 22,471 kilograms full. Indeed, the latter is the pinnacle of aircraft technology in this particular aspect.
The mighty Dragon has a combat range of 1,200 miles, which dwarves the combat ranges of the F-22 Raptor (679 miles in clean subsonic) and the F-35 Lightning II (870 miles on internal fuel). China’s flagship fighter aircraft is a true force to be reckoned with in the air, imposing its will on targets anywhere within its vicinity.
Manufacturers focus on giving fighter aircraft blistering top speeds. This is done to ensure that they can artfully carry out top fights and other missions or in rare cases, retreat easily should things go south. All three jets are incredibly fast machines, but it is the F-22 Raptor that wins this proverbial race with its incredible Mach 2.25 top speed.
However, it’s worth mentioning that it can only attain this top speed at altitude, slowing down whenever it flies at sea level or on a supercruise at altitude. The J-20 takes the silver medal with its Mach 2 top speed, which runs its American rival pretty close and makes it China’s fastest fighter jet. The F-35 Lightning II lacks the pace of the aircraft above, topping out at Mach 1.6.
The mighty Dragon comes with all kinds of missiles, ranging from long-range ones to short-range AMS. It does not have a cannon, which means it is strictly for long-ranging sniping.
This is very different from the approach taken by the Americans, with the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II having a 20-millimeter M61A2 Vulcan rotary cannon and a 25-millimeter GAU-22/A four-barrel rotary cannon, respectively. The latter pair also comes with air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, making them more versatile than their Chinese counterpart.
The Chengdu J-20 can deploy its PL-10 missile without even opening its bay doors, making it almost impossible to detect on radar. Another impressive feature is the usage of radar-absorbent materials designed to make it a ninja of an aircraft.
The F-22 Raptor has a similar approach to stealth but boasts better avionics to keep its pilots one step ahead of enemy aircraft at all times. The F-35 Lightning II is even better, possessing more advanced sensors and communication systems that make it a proper defensive wall.
Wing loading is an essential part of building fighter jets. Important things like stalling speed are determined by this parameter, which means engineers have to adhere to designs that focus on getting the best wing loading possible. The Chengdu J-20 is an ace in this department, with an impressive 69 pounds/sq ft of thrust.
However, it cannot match the numbers that the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II can put up. The F-22 Raptor puts out 77.2 pounds/sq ft of lift, but that pales in comparison to the F-35 Lightning II’s staggering 107.7 pounds/sq ft output. The latter’s more efficient design means it is the pick of the bunch when it comes to having the best wing loading. This allows it to have a faster average speed during cross-country trips.
In the realm of modern fighter aircraft, the Chengdu J-20, Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, and Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stand as titans of technology and innovation. While each aircraft has its strengths and advantages, the detailed comparison across various parameters showcases their unique capabilities and contributions to their respective nations’ defense strategies. Whether it’s the J-20’s remarkable fuel efficiency, the F-22’s unmatched top speed at altitude, or the F-35’s versatility and advanced defense systems, these aircraft collectively define the cutting-edge aerial combat capability in today’s world.