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Kanwa: China's J-20 can't cut it as a fifth-generation fighter

Three years after the first test flight of the Chengdu J-20, China's first stealth fighter, the Canada-based Kanwa Defense Review operated by military analyst Andrei Chang, also known as Pinkov, says aircraft designers around the world are still questioning whether the fighter is qualified to be called a fifth-generation fighter or not.

Aircraft designers from Russia, Poland and the United States rarely give negative comments on the design of other aircraft, according to the magazine; however, they have offered a very negative verdict on the J-20. The chief designer from Russia's Mikoyan military aircraft design bureau said the concept of Shenyang Aircraft Corporation's J-31 is much easier for him to grasp compared to the j-20 designed by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group.

For the chief designer of Russia's Sukhoi company, the J-20 cannot be considered a fifth-generation fighter as it does not have supersonic cruise capability; a criterion which would also exclude Lockheed Martin's F-35. He also questioned the reliability of the J-20's stealth capability.

An aviation expert from Poland said the design of the J-20 is extremely odd because its front wing will increase the chance of detection by enemy radar and early warning aircraft. In the view of a designer from Lockheed Martin, the J-20 is way too big for a stealth fighter. The J-20 has a very similar size to the US F-111 tactical fighter, said the American designer, adding that China does not have engines with sufficient thrust to power the fighter.

Kanwa said, however, that it is not fair to judge the J-20 by the same standards as aircraft developed in the United States and Russia, as it is the first stealth fighter fully designed by Chinese aviation experts. China has already invested too many resources in the development of the J-20 at this point, according to the magazine, and it is too late to cancel the project now. The magazine added that China can resolve the engine problem by introducing the AL31FM1 from Russia, which should provide it with sufficient thrust.

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