Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Limited Chinese Stealth

Other than being inferior in terms of communications, detection capabilities, and actual stealth, the Chinese J-20 is just great.

China has put its first J-20 stealth planes into actual units. I'm sure it isn't fully operational and it isn't really a full stealth plane, actually.

This is progress for China:

China's defense ministry has publicly confirmed the J-20, Beijing's proprietary stealth fighter, is being deployed with the country's air force.

This is odd:

The J-20 is capable of flying long distances while receiving air refueling, and can fire long-range cruise missiles. It can achieve a maximum speed of Mach 2.5, or 1,900 mph.

It can fire long-range cruise missiles? Is that right? It must mean it can fire long-range air-to-air missiles. Long-range cruise missiles would have to be externally carried because of their size and would wreck the stealth characteristics of the plane. (Although this article says the J-20 has "huge weapons bays," so maybe such a missile could be carried internally.)

And this assessment understates the plane's shortcomings:

[The J-20] lags behind U.S. rivals in communication and detection capabilities.

As I understand it, unlike America's all-around stealth planes, the J-20 (and the Russian entry into the stealth field) is a stealth aircraft from the frontal aspect only.

It is designed to charge in and fire long-range air-to-air missiles, getting closer because of stealth. Ideally, when it turns to head home, threats are shot down.

As I noted,  if we can put ground radars on the flanks of inbound routes, we will defeat that tactic.

Indeed, if we throw stealthy drones with sensors far ahead of our planes like a line of observation posts, we could detect the J-20s long before they get close enough to fire their weapons.

China made an advance, no doubt. But it still doesn't match our three-decade-old F-117 (now retired) in all-around stealth or our decades of experience integrating stealth planes into the whole air power system we have.