Joseph Goebbels served as minister of propaganda for the German Third Reich under Adolf Hitler—a position from which he spread the Nazi message. Chinese propagandists are continuing from where Goebbels left off!

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLA-AF) of China has officially commissioned its very first stealth aircraft, the Chengdu J-20, making it only one of the three operational stealth aircraft fighters in the world.

The twin-engine, single-seat jet “has been officially commissioned into military service,” Xinhua reported, citing Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian.

Surprisingly, Qian said the “fourth-generation” medium- and long-range aircraft is still undergoing flight tests which “are being conducted as scheduled.” Scout Warrior’s Dave Majumdar reports that China’s fourth-generation designation corresponds to what most mature air forces consider “fifth-generation” aircraft, namely the F-22 and F-35.

The F-22 Raptor went live in 2005 while the US military’s other fifth-generation aircraft, the F-35 — reached initial operational capability (IOC) in 2015. Technically, the F-35A US Air Force variant attained IOC in December 2016, the US Marine Corps’ short-takeoff and vertical landing variant hit IOC in December 2015, and the US Navy’s F-35C is expected to receive the IOC declaration in February 2019, according to a report prepared by the F-35 Joint Program Office.

While the detailed specifications of the new jet have been kept secret, to all appearances the jets have been designed to match the stealth capabilities of fifth-generation fighter aircraft such as the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and Russia's Sukhoi Su-57 (formerly PAK-FA).

But there is a catch, the J-20 stealth fighter jet bears similarities to an experimental prototype for a fifth-generation fighter jet produced by Russia's MiG aircraft corporation then called the MiG 1.44. The design of the MiG 1.44 had some stealth aspects, and it was planned that the aircraft would be coated with "radar absorbing material" to improve stealth. The twin AL-41F engines with thrust-vectoring nozzles is developed by Salyut, which the Chinese bought for half a billion dollars which gives the aircraft "supersonic cruise" capability.

The first revelation to emerge regarding the similarity between the MiG 1.44 and the Chengdu J-20 surfaced, when photographs began circulating in 2010. Comparing the two fifth-generation prototypes, Defence Aviation spotted "startling similarities between the Chinese J-20 and the cancelled Russian MiG-1.44."

The J-31 Angle

Angad an Indian defence aerospace expert wrote that the layout is virtually identical, with the main differences being the position of the intakes and the larger fuselage on the J-20. To give due credit to the "MASTERS OF CLONING", the J-31 is the spitting image of the Lockheed F-35 Lightning II – America's latest and greatest technological creation. However, the new project, being referred to as the Shenyang J-31, paints a much more disturbing picture than the J-20. The J-20’s heritage could be traced back to an abandoned Soviet project that was deemed irrelevant before it even got off the ground. 

Why is this similarity to the F-35 worrisome? Because as recently as 2010, Lockheed Martin publicly admitted that six to eight of its subcontractors had been “totally compromised” by cyber-intrusions. Later it emerged that BAE Systems, Britain’s largest defence contractor and a key partner in the F-35 program was among the breached firms. The proof, however, is in the pudding – the J-31 resembles the F-35 in everything but the engine configuration. The intakes are identical, as is the nose, wings and control surfaces. Note that despite choosing to use all-moving vertical stabilisers on the J-20, the J-31 features rudders like the F-22 and F-35.

The Chinese jet is not expected to match Western sophistication in propulsion, sensors, avionics, and pilot interface. What is inescapable, however, is that basic airframe design and construction of fifth-generation aircraft is no longer an area where the West retains mastery. Whether China acquired this expertise honestly or not is moot. The fact is that they have the J-20 prototype was realised in one-fifth the time it took either the Russians or the Americans, and are catching up everywhere else.

As a stealth fighter, the J-20 is not as optimised for combat as the MiG 1.44, but both planes "have similarly styled delta wing canard configurations and a V-Shaped tail section with closely mounted engines," noted an aviation analyst.

Dubious Claims

Lockheed Martin was named the prime contractor to develop an air-superiority stealth fighter after the cancellation of the F-22 production and the development started in 1992. Despite Lockheed Martin's obvious technical prowess the F-35 is a decade behind schedule. If LM has taken more than 25 years to operationalise a stealth fighter, then how could the Chinese achieve this advancement in less than a decade. A rather bewildering proposition, to say the least.

Obviously, we are missing something here, the technologies involved in developing a 5th gen fighter is myriad and complex, the cutting-edge technologies are continuously evolving leading to cost and time overruns and could easily span several years in the making. A true blue 5th gen plane should essentially have advanced stealth, exceptional agility and manoeuvrability, fully fused sensor information, superior logistics support, network-enabled operations, full mission systems coverage and advanced sustainment. This brings us to the moot question, does the J-20 incorporate all these capabilities? I guess not. The dubious J-20 is just a posturing tool for the Chinese propaganda machine. Hence, China has ruled out selling the J-20 on the Global Market lest its skulduggery would be revealed.

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