China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition had many moments but one of the most important of them was the first public appearance of the J-20.
We have known J-20 for years but now, for the first time reporters could take high quality photos and we could see some maneuvers in the air. They look very good. I mus admit. All 5th generation fighters are a bit the same but with the J-20 you can observe some differences but that is not the key element for this text nor for the fighter itself.
The question is what this machine can do in the air? That is a bit of a mystery and probably we will never know their real capabilities. The interesting bit of information is that it is very close to mass production and the second important information that comes to my mind is the numbers of J-20 that are to be build. The Chinese government informed that the demand could be between 500 and 700 aircraft.
Even if the plane is much worst than the F-22 or F-35 the share numbers are impressive. As we know USA also wanted 700 F-22 and eventually due to the end of the cold war they have produced only less than 200 – the cost of the aircraft was to big. The situation today is different.
We can all observe that China is rising very fast. If they assume 700 fighters it is very possible that they will do it. A global super power must have enormous strike capabilities and China wants to be a global super power. I f we combine that with other aircraft that are build in-house by China a new dominant air force emerges.
A stated earlier we do not know what those aircraft are capable of in comparison with western fighters but we know that their numbers will allow to cover the gaps, if there are any.
The question is what will be the response of “the big boys”. What aircraft (manned or unmanned) are on the drawing boards and in test facilities at Skunk Works and Phantom Works? What is the next big thing prepared by the Pentagon? They have to have something as the F-22 is aging. Although it’s still the number one when it comes to air to air engagement this situation can’t last for ever.
Will we see new manned aircraft called 6th generation? Or USA will skip that step and move to the unmanned drones ? Will they fly in swarms and allow a constant surveillance and readiness for engagement?
Photo:神翼大帝 / Wikimedia Commons