J-20: China’s Stealth Fighter

India Strategic - - AIR FORCE DAY SPECIAL -

The Chinese Chengdu

J-20 is a twin en­gine fighter with stealth fea­tures which en­able it to some­times go un­de­tected by radar, an enor­mous ad­van­tage in air com­bat over con­ven­tional fighter jets which can be tracked on radar.

The su­personic J- 20 is thought to have gone into low-rate pro­duc­tion this Jan­uary af­ter first be­ing spot­ted at the Chengdu Air­craft De­sign In­sti­tute in De­cem­ber 2010. The jet flew for the first time in Jan­uary 2011. Since then, new vari­ants of the jet have ap­peared with mod­i­fied de­sign-fea­tures to ac­com­mo­date what is thought to be a larger en­gine.

In­dia does not op­er­ate any stealth air­craft at present. The Indo-Rus­sian Fifth Gen­er­a­tion Fighter Air­craft (FGFA) be­ing co-de­vel­oped by Sukhoi is still sev­eral years from en­ter­ing ser­vice with the In­dian Air Force and the in­dige­nous Ad­vanced Medium Com­bat Air­craft (AMCA) is still not off the draw­ing boards. their work­horse. How­ever, the de­vel­op­ment of the Z-18A, a mil­i­tary de­riv­a­tive of the civil­ian AC 313 trans­port he­li­copter, which it­self has been adapted from the French Su­per Frelon, is a move to­wards greater ro­tary wing ca­pa­bil­ity for high al­ti­tude op­er­a­tions. The Z-18A is most likely pow­ered by the Chinese WS-6 en­gine which is a de­riv­a­tive of Tur­bomeca Turmo 3C en­gine. With this pow­er­ful en­gine the Z-18 is re­ported to have flown to an al­ti­tude of 9,000m, i.e., above Mt Ever­est and set a world record. World records aside (no in­de­pen­dent or sci­en­tific con­fir­ma­tion is avail­able) the very fact that it has flown at least to 8,000m, as re­ported by Jane’s Weekly, show­cases its high al­ti­tude ca­pa­bil­ity.

The im­pli­ca­tions are many; the im­por­tant one be­ing that in the com­ing years China would have the ca­pa­bil­ity to rapidly move troops and heavy equip­ment ( in­clud­ing ar­tillery guns) into and within Ti­bet. What it will also get, as a corol­lary, is the ca­pa­bil­ity to heli-lift troops be­hind In­dian front line forces in the moun­tain­ous bor­der ar­eas in Ladakh and in Arunachal Pradesh in a flank­ing ma­noeu­vre, in case of war. Chinese press re­ports have high­lighted the at­tributes of the Amer­i­can M777 155mm how­itzer that In­dia is procur­ing and the fact that In­dia would heli-lift it to its bor­der ar­eas us­ing the Mi-26 he­li­copter (the Chi­nook be­ing pro­cured can also do the task). The high al­ti­tude ca­pa­ble Z-18 would also be able to lift the Chinese made AH 64 155mm ar­tillery gun, bring­ing to the PLAAF the ca­pa­bil­ity of heli-lift­ing troops and equip­ment in the Ti­betan plateau.

Chinese Mil­i­tary Trans­port Air­craft Xian Y-20

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