Yang Wei: Fighter De­signer

The suc­cess­ful pro­duc­tion of the J-20 sig­ni­fies that China has en­tered the “realm of freedom” in the field of mil­i­tary air­craft re­search.

China Pictorial (English) - - CONTENTS - In­ter­viewed by Hu Zhoumeng Text by Wang Lei

On Fe­bru­ary 9, right be­fore the open­ing of the 2018 Two Ses­sions, a piece of news cap­tured pub­lic at­ten­tion at home and abroad: Se­nior Colonel Shen Jinke, spokesman for the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army Air Force, con­firmed that the Chi­nade­vel­oped stealth fighter J-20 had been of­fi­cially com­mis­sioned into com­bat ser­vice, mark­ing an im­por­tant step in form­ing com­pre­hen­sive com­bat ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Along­side this news, Yang Wei, deputy to the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress, chief de­signer of the J-20 and aca­demi­cian of the Chinese Academy of Sci­ences, was also pulled back into the spot­light. Over the years, he has en­gaged in de­sign, re­search and de­vel­op­ment of mil­i­tary air­craft and served as chief de­signer of seven fighter jets in­clud­ing the J-20, remodeled ver­sions of the J-10 and the JC-1.

Yang was sen­ti­men­tal about the J-20. Re­cently, he wrote a let­ter to the J-20 in 2035: “When you were born, you were a flash in the south­west cor­ner of China, evok­ing joy on our side and sus­pi­cion on the other. When you grew up, you stunned spec­ta­tors with your de­but at the Zhuhai Air­show, bring­ing pride to our side and ex­cite­ment to the other. Later on, you be­came a strong guard of the moth­er­land, with re­spon­si­bil­ity on this side and de­ter­rence on the other. And to­day, you have be­come the leg­end of the fighter jet fam­ily, the leader on our side and guid­ing hope on the other.”

When in­ter­viewed by China Pic­to­rial , Yang talked more about in­no­va­tion in the J-20 than tech­ni­cal im­prove­ments. “The suc­cess­ful pro­duc­tion of the J-20 shows that we have en­tered the realm of freedom in the field of mil­i­tary air­craft re­search. The term ‘realm of freedom’ means that we don’t need to fol­low oth­ers’ rules, but in­stead use in­no­va­tive think­ing to do re­search ac­cord­ing to China’s own strate­gic goals and ways to play

The Chinese peo­ple cherish peace and will never en­gage in ag­gres­sion or ex­pan­sion, but we have con­fi­dence to con­quer all at­tempts at ag­gres­sion to­wards us.

the game.”

Yang Wei ex­plained that the cur­rent global avi­a­tion in­dus­try can be di­vided into three tiers: the United States is on the first tier, China, Rus­sia and Europe are on the sec­ond tier, and other coun­tries are on the third tier. Af­ter a num­ber of ad­vanced air­craft such as the J-20, J-16 and J-10

joined the air force over the past two years, China’s fight­ers have reached the high end of the sec­ond tier.

In Yang’s opin­ion, China’s mil­i­tary avi­a­tion in­dus­try has pro­gressed rapidly, which was at­trib­uted to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the in­no­va­tion-driven de­vel­op­ment strat­egy put for­ward by Chinese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping. “The Chinese peo­ple cherish peace and will never en­gage in ag­gres­sion or ex­pan­sion, but we have con­fi­dence to con­quer all at­tempts at ag­gres­sion to­wards us.” In the process of de­fend­ing the coun­try, more ad­vanced equip­ment is needed. The equip­ment is ad­vanced be­cause break­throughs are con­stantly be­ing made. There­fore, for the de­fense in­dus­try, the ne­ces­sity of “in­no­va­tion” is more de­mand­ing and dy­namic than other in­dus­tries.

Yang opined that if China wants to reach the first tier, its most fun­da­men­tal sup­port will be in­no­va­tion. “In­no­va­tion is not only re­flected in tech­ni­cal equip­ment, but also in equip­ment de­vel­op­ment plans and game modes.”

Yang elab­o­rated that the strate­gic ob­jec­tives and needs of China’s mil­i­tary avi­a­tion in­dus­try are not en­tirely con­sis­tent with other pow­ers of the world. “In the past, the over­all de­sign, struc­ture, and per­for­mance in­di­ca­tors of Chinese fighter jets were all made abroad, and we just fol­lowed suit. Now, af­ter years of de­vel­op­ment, we have a strate­gic goal of our own, and are bold enough to cre­ate by our­selves where pre­vi­ous knowl­edge is still ab­sent. The ‘realm of freedom’ is equip­ment and tech­nol­ogy, which were de­signed based on the in­de­pen­dent de­mands of China’s strat­egy.”

When China’s mil­i­tary air­craft re­search achieves unique strate­gic de­mand, in­de­pen­dent de­vel­op­ment roadmaps and in­no­va­tive ap­pli­ca­tion abil­ity, the coun­try evolves from a fol­lower to a sub­ject of study. “It was my dream to lure our ri­vals to study us, and to­day it has come true.”

Af­ter en­ter­ing the “realm of freedom,” what is next for Chinese fighter jets? “We can see the fu­ture by look­ing back at his­tory, and we will stick to tech­no­log­i­cal im­prove­ment and in­no­va­tion,” Yang said. For ex­am­ple, since the J-10 was mas­sively equipped in the air force as early as 2004, the fight­ing ca­pac­ity of the J-10 con­tin­ued to im­prove. In the fu­ture, just like the J-10, new mod­els like the J-20 will be re­leased, with new ca­pa­bil­i­ties and adap­ta­tions for emerg­ing tasks. At the same time, China, the United States and Rus­sia’s ad­vanced fighter jets be­long to the “fifth gen­er­a­tion.”

“We all won­der what to do next,” he con­tin­ued. “There is no doubt that China’s new fighter jets are also look­ing for break­throughs. As long as the coun­try needs it, there will be new fight­ers.”

Yang Wei, deputy to the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress, chief de­signer of the J-20 and aca­demi­cian of the Chinese Academy of Sci­ences, sur­mises that China’s mil­i­tary avi­a­tion in­dus­try has en­tered the “realm of freedom.” China needs to use in­no­va­tive think­ing to per­form fur­ther re­search based on its own de­vel­op­ment plans and game modes. by Wan Quan

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