The Chengdu J-20 is a Stealth, twin-engine fifth-generation fighter aircraft prototype being developed by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force(PLAAF). The J-20 made its first flight on 11 January 2011, and is expected to be operational in 2017–2019. China’s J-20 platform has the potential to be a capable, long-range strike system in the Asia-Pacific region, but a number of technical challenges will need to be overcome before production can begin.
Origins of the J-20 came from the J-XX program which was started in the late 1990s. A proposal from Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group, designated “Project 718”, had won the PLAAF endorsement following a 2008 competition against a Shenyang proposal that was reportedly even larger than the J-20. On 22 December 2010, the first J-20 prototype underwent high speed taxiing tests outside the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute.
On 11 January 2011, the J-20 made its first flight, lasting about 15 minutes, with a Chengdu J-10S serving as the chase aircraft. After the successful flight, a ceremony was held, attended by the pilot, Li Gang, Chief Designer Yang Wei and General Li Andong (Deputy-Director of General Armaments).
On 17 April 2011, a second test flight of an hour and 20 minutes took place.On 5 May 2011, a 55-minute test flight was held that included retraction of the landing gear.
On 26 February 2012, a J-20 performed various low-altitude maneuvers. On 10 May 2012, a second prototype underwent high speed taxiing tests, and flight testing that began later that month. On 20 October 2012, photographs of a new prototype emerged, featuring a different radome, which was speculated to house an AESA radar.
On March 2013, images of the side weapon bays appeared, including a missile launch rail.
On 16 January 2014, a J-20 prototype was revealed, showing a new intake and stealth coating, as well as redesigned vertical stabilizers, and a system that appeared to be an Electro-Optical Targeting System. This particular aircraft numbered ‘2011’ performed its maiden flight on 1 March 2014 and is said to represent the initial pre-serial standard. Overall the year 2014 was quite a successful one and until the end of 2014 three more pre-serial prototypes were flown: number ‘2012’ on 26 July 2014, number ‘2013’ on 29 November 2014 and finally number ‘2015’ on 19 December 2014.
The J-20 has a long and wide fuselage, with the chiseled nose section and a frame-less canopy resembling that of the F-22 Raptor. Immediately behind the cockpit are low observable intakes. All-moving canard surfaces with pronounced Dihedral (aeronautics) are placed behind the intake ramps, followed by leading edge extensions merging into delta wing with forward-swept trailing edges. The aft section features twin, outward canted all-moving fins, short but deep ventral strakes, and conventional round engine nozzles. In one paper published on a Chinese aerodynamic journal, a designer of J-20 described high instability as an important design criterion for J-20. A canard is used to achieve sustained pitch authority at high angle of attack, as traditional tail-plane would start to lose effectiveness. This is because tail-plane would go into even higher angle-of-attack and stall, whereas canard can avoid this effect by deflecting to the same magnitude but opposite to the angle-of-attack.A canard configuration can also provide good supersonic performance, excellent supersonic and transonic turn performance, and improved short-field landing performance compared to the conventional design.
The same journal paper also explained how leading edge extensions and body lift are incorporated to enhance performance in a canard layout through interactions amongvortices. One graph shows the configuration to generate 1.2 times the lift of an ordinary canard delta, and 1.8 times more lift than a pure delta configuration of similar size. This allows the use of a smaller wing, reducing supersonic aerodynamic drag without compromising transonic lift-to-drag ratio characteristics that are crucial to the aircraft’s turn performance.
The production version of the J-20’s is speculated to be WS-15 a turbofan engine currently under development in the same class as American F-119. According to Global Security, the engine core, composed of high pressure compressors, the combustion chamber, and high pressure turbines were successfully tested in 2005. An image of the core appeared in the 2006 Zhuhai Air Show. Since 2012, China has reported numerous breakthroughs in development military turbofans and invested up to 20 billion US dollars in turbofan engine research and development. The J-20 has the potential to rival the F-22A Raptor in performance once appropriate engines become available.
Western analyst believe that the current prototypes are powered by WS-10 or the AL-31F engine. China is a large importer of Russian-made jet engines, prompting rumors that China seeks to obtain AL-41 117S engines for the initial production of J-20 through Su-35 purchases. However, these rumors have since been denied by China, and were proven as false. It was also reported that Russia approached China in an unsuccessful bid to sell 117S engines during the 2012 Zhuhai Air Show.
The aircraft features a glass cockpit, with two main large color liquid crystal displays (LCD) situated side-by-side, three smaller auxiliary displays, and a wide-angle holographic head-up display (HUD).
A PLAAF Tupolev Tu-204 test bed aircraft was seen featuring a J-20 nose cone. It is believed to house the Type 1475 (KLJ-5) active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar with 1856 transmit/receive modules.
Prototype “2011” featured a revised nose section with elements resembling a IRST/EOTS system used to hunt low observable aircraft, and a metal finish that loosely reminds the radar absorbing Haze Paint first used on F-16s, and reportedly included sensor fusion technology.
The main weapon bay is capable of housing both short and long-range air-to-air missiles (AAM) (PL-9, PL-12C/D & PL-21).
Two smaller lateral weapon bays behind the air inlets are intended for short-range AAMs (PL-9). These bays allow closure of the bay doors prior to firing the missile, thus enhancing stealth.
No gun has yet been seen on any J-20 model and there have not been signs of provisions for one.
Analysts noted that J-20’s nose and canopy use similar stealth shaping design as the F-22, yielding similar signature performance in a mature design at the front, while the aircraft’s side and axi-symmetric engine nozzles may expose the aircraft to radar. One prototype has been powered by WS-10G engines equipped with a different jagged-edge nozzles and tiles for greater stealth.
Others have raised doubts about the use of canards on a low-observable design, stating that canards would guarantee radar detection and a compromise of stealth.However, canards and low-observability are not mutually exclusive designs. Northrop Grumman’s proposal for the U.S Navy’s Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) incorporated canards on a stealthy air frame. Lockheed Martin employed canards on a stealth airframe for the Joint Advanced Strike Technology (JAST) program during early development before dropping them due to complications with aircraft carrier recovery. McDonnell Douglas and NASA’s X-36 featured canards and was considered to be extremely stealthy. Radar cross-section can be further reduced by controlling canard deflection through flight control software, as is done on the Eurofighter.
The diverterless supersonic inlet (DSI) enables an aircraft to reach Mach 2.0 with a simpler intake than traditionally required, and improves stealth performance by eliminating radar reflections between the diverter and the aircraft’s skin. Analysts have noted that the J-20 DSI reduces the need for application of radar absorbent materials.Additionally, the “bump” surface reduces the engine’s exposure to radar, significantly reducing a strong source of radar reflection.
Data from Aviation Week & Space Technology
- Crew: one (pilot)
- Length: 20 m (66.8 ft)
- Wingspan: 13 m (44.2 ft)
- Height: 4.45 m (14 ft 7 in)
- Wing area: 78 m2 (840 sq ft)
- Empty weight: 19,391 kg (42,750 lb)
- Gross weight: 32,092 kg (70,750 lb)
- Max takeoff weight: 36,288 kg (80,001 lb) upper estimate
- Fuel capacity: 25000 lb
- Powerplant: 2 × Saturn AL-31F (prototype) or Xian WS-15 (production) afterburning turbofans, 76.18 kN (17,125 lbf) thrust each dry, 122.3 or 179.9 kN (27,500 or 40,450 lbf) with afterburner
- Wing loading: 340 kg/m2 (69 lb/sq ft)
- Thrust/weight: 0.94 (prototype with interim engines)
- PL-10 SRAAM
- PL-12 Medium Range AAM
Negotiations with India to supply Su-27 type fighters started in 1994. The Design Bureau commenced work to develop a Su-30-based plane for India’s Air Force in 1995. A.F. Barkovsky was appointed chief designer of the project. On 30th November 1996 an intergovernmental agreement was made for phased development and delivery to India of 8 Su-30K two-seat fighters and 32 Su-30MKI multi-role two-seat fighters. The planes were scheduled for delivery in several consignments, with gradual enhancement of avionics, powerplant and weapons. The general contractors, according to a government resolution, were:
– for aeroplane development: Sukhoi Design Bureau OJSC (now JSC),
– for aeroplane production: Irkutsk Aircraft Production Association (IAPA, now Irkut Corporation).
Two prototypes were built by the Design Bureau in 1995-1998. The first prototype, Su-30I-1, was based on the Su-30 production version, the prototype completed in the spring of 1997. The first flight was performed by test pilot V.Yu. Averyanov on 1st July 1997. In July 1997, the Design Bureau launched a program to test the plane jointly with SPFC of the Air Forces.
The aircraft has been in production in Irkutsk since 2000. The first pre-production plane was flight tested at the plant by V.Yu. Averyanov on 26th November 2000. The first three pre-production Su-30MKIs were handed over to the Design Bureau and have been used along with prototypes in the joint-testing programme with SPFC of Air Forces.
In accordance with the terms of the contract, the Su-30MKI planes were to be tested and delivered in 3 stages. The first delivery of 10 Su-30MKIs to the Customer took place in 2002; the second batch of 12 aeroplanes, in 2003. By 2004, the Su-30K and Su-30MKI planes had been put into service with two squadrons of India’s Air Force.
The Su-30MKI’s distinctive features:
– for the first time in the world, a production aircraft has an engine with thrust vector control (AL-31FP, developed by the RDC named after A. Lyulka), and a remote control system integrated into a single control loop. Taken together, this renders the Su-30MKI extremely manoeuvrable;
– for the first time in the Design Bureau’s history, a plane features a large-scale integration of avionics systems of foreign and domestic origin. The Su-30MKI has an “international” avionics portfolio, including as it does systems and units made by 14 foreign firms from 6 countries of the world.
– For the first time in the world, a production plane has a radar with PAA (“Bars” developed by the Scientific Research Institute of Instrumentation Technology). Moreover, the plane has a new ejection seat, the K-36D-3.5, and a number of other innovative systems of domestic origin.
– The ADO line-up has been significantly upgraded with the addition of the RVV-AYe air-to-air guided missile, Kh-29L/T/TYe, Kh-31A/P, Kh-59M air-to-ground missiles, and KAB-500 and KAB-1500 guided bombs.
The Su-30MKI program has for the first time in Russian history showcased a new model for military-technical cooperation incorporating all types of long-term cooperation currently practiced in the world such as:
– delivery of the first consignment of products in the baseline version (Su-30K),
– joint R&D to produce an upgraded version (Su-30MKI),
– granting the customer a licence to manufacture with subsequent replacement of Russian-made components with those of foreign origin (in December 2000, a contract was signed to sell to India a licence to manufacture 140 Su-30MKI planes of the final delivery group),
– upgrading of the planes from the first deliveries to the technical status of the final delivery group,
– setting up of a joint technical service centre for aftersales maintenance of the equipment supplied,
– using the «export beachhead» to expand into the regional market (in 2003, a contract was made to supply Su-30MKM planes to Malaysia).
The Design Bureau started work to produce a Su-30-based two-seat attack aircraft designated Su-30MKK for China’s Air Forces in 1997, A.I. Knyshev having been appointed chief designer of the project. Under the contract, the Komsomolsk-on-Amur production plant (KnAAPO) was named as the general contractor. The Design Bureau produced a detailed design in 1997-98; the prototype planes were made in Komsomolsk-on-Amur in 1998-99.
The new version of the two-seater was based to a great extent on the design solutions adopted for the Su-27SK and the single-seat fighter Su-27M. As a result, the Su-30MKK incorporated, for all intents and purposes without any redesign, the Su-27M’s centre wing section, wing panels, air intakes, tail beams, fins and landing gear and the Su-27SK’s tail-end fuselage assemblies. This way, the design scope was reduced dramatically, without any new components required for building the aircraft except for the nose. Besides, the production plant had already gained experience in setting up production of a two-seat trainer at the beginning of the ’80s.
The first prototype was built in the spring of 1999, the Su-30MKK-1 having been taken off the ground for its maiden flight on 20th May 1999 by test pilots I.Ye. Solovyov (Design Bureau) and A.V. Pulenko (KnAAPO). The first four pre-production planes were handed over to the Design Bureau for testing. The testing was conducted jointly with SPFC of the Air Forces in 1999-2001, with the first 10 production Su-30MKK planes delivered to the customer in December 2000.
Su-30MKK design highlights:
– The plane features upgraded equipment of Russian manufacture, which includes a new version of radar with target designation and mapping capabilities; OSTS with target illumination using a laser beam; a GPS system, and a coloured multi-function LCDs in the cockpit, etc.;
– The ADO line-up has been upgraded with the addition of RVV-AYe air-to-air guided missile; Kh-29L/T/TYe, Kh-31P, Kh-59M air-to-ground missiles; and KAB-500 and KAB-1500 guided bombs. The Su-30MKK has been used as a platform to produce an upgraded version, the Su-30MK2, which differs from the parent version in its weapons and equipment systems configuration; planes of this type were been supplied to China in 2003. In addition, Su-30MK type aeroplanes were supplied to Indonesia in 2003.
|– normal (including rockets 2xR-27R1 + 2xR-73E, 5270 kg fuel), kg||24,900*|
|– maximum, kg||34,500|
|– max, kg||38,800|
|Maximum landing weight, kg||23,600|
|Max landing weight, kg||30,000|
|Maximum internal fuel, kg||9,640|
|Normal internal fuel, kg||5,270|
|Maximum ordnance, kg||8,000|
|Service ceiling (without external ordnance and stores), km||17.3|
|Maximum flight speed at sea level (without external ordnance and stores), km/h||1,350|
|Max Mach (without external ordnance and stores)||2.00 (1.9**)|
|Maximum flight range (with rockets 2xR-27R1, 2xR-73E launched at half distance):|
|– at sea level, km||1,270|
|– at height, km||3,000|
|– with one refuelling (at 1.500 kg fuel remaining), km||5,200|
|– with two refuellings in flight, km||8,000|
|Maximum airborne time (pilot-dependent), hours||10|
|Takeoff run at normal takeoff weight, m||550|
|Landing run at normal landing weight (with braking parachute), m||750|
|– length, m||21.9|
|– wingspan, m||14.7|
|– height, m||6.4|
|In-flight refuelling system|
|Maximum flow rate (at entry pressure of 3.5 kg/cm 2), l/min||1,100|
|Number and type of engines||2 x AL-31F (2 x AL-31FP***)|
|Thrust in afterburner, kgf||12,500 -2 %|
|1. Fire control system|
|1.1. Air-to-air fire control system|
|1.1.1. Search and track radar|
|1.1.2. IRST and laser rangefinder|
|126.96.36.199. Optical search and track station|
|188.8.131.52. Helmet-mounted target designator|
|1.1.3. Wide-angle HUD|
|1.1.4. IFF system interrogator|
|1.2. Air-to-surface fire control system|
|1.2.1. Coloured multi-purpose LCD indicators|
|1.2.2. Onboard digital computer|
|1.2.3. GPS satellite-based navigation system|
|1.2.4. Weapons control system|
|2. Aeroplane remote control system|
|3. IFF system transponder|
|4. Antenna feed system|
|5. Flight navigation system|
|5.1. Digital computer|
|5.2. Attitude and heading reference system|
|5.3. Short-range radiotechnical navigation system|
|5.4. GPS system|
|5.5. Autopilot system|
|5.6. Altitude and speed data processing and display system|
|5.7. Air data system|
|6. Electronic countermeasure equipment|
|6.1. Radar warning receiver with an expansion block|
|6.2. Chaff and heat flare dispenser|
|6.3. Radio jamming transmitter (in pod)|
|7. Communications system|
|7.1. VHF and UHF band communications transceiver|
|7.2. VHF and UHF band communications transceiver|
|7.3. SW band radio communications transceiver|
|8. Onboard automatic control system|
|8.1. Integrated onboard control and crew warning system|
|8.2. Flight information recording equipment|
|8.3. Onboard emergency situation warning equipment|
|9. Video recording system|
|9.1. Onboard video recorder|
|9.2. Forward vision video camera|
|9.3. Video controller|
|10. Aircraft responder|
|11. Telecommand homing system|
|12. Pod-type IRST and laser rangefinder|
|– SLL, hours||3,000|
|– to first overhaul, hours||1,500|
|– service life, years||25|
|Engine and outboard accessory-gearbox life:|
|– to first overhaul, hours||500|
|– service life limit, hours||1,500|
*May vary depending on the equipment configuration installed upon customer's request **With canard surfaces installed ***With thrust vector control engine installed
|1. Guns||Onboard 30mm gun with 150 rds|
|2. Guided air-to-air missiles||R-27R1(ER1) R-27T1(ET1) R-27P(EP) R-73E RVV-AYe|
|3. Guided air-to-surface missiles||Kh-59ME Kh-31A, Kh-31P Kh-29T(TYe), Kh-29L|
|4. Guided bomb units||KAB-500KR, KAB-500OD KAB-1500KR, KAB-1500L|
|5. Air bombs||FAB-500T BETAB-500ShP ODAB-500PM OFAB-250-270 OFAB-100-120 P-50T Incendiary bombs|
|6. Cluster bombs||RBK-500 SPBE-D|
|7. Unguided missiles||S-8KOM, S-8OM, S-8BM S-13T, S-13OF S-25OFM-PU|
|8. External fuel tanks||N/a|
|9. Suspension points||12|