China’s First 5th Generation Fighter Jet Is Operational

Di Vincenzo Santo*

(Da The Diplomat – 2 ottobre 2017)

Pekin. The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has officially commissioned its first fifth-generation fighter aircraft into service (…) “The J-20 is China’s fourth-generation medium and long-range fighter jet. It made its maiden flight in 2011 and was first shown to the public at the 11th Airshow China in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, in November last year,” according to the ministry (Fourth-generation corresponds to fifth-generation fighter jets in the rest of the world). (…) With the induction of the Chengdu J-20, reportedly now called the J-20A, the PLAAF has become the second air force in the world to operate a 5th generation stealth fighter jet after the the United States, which operates Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors or the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. The twin-engine fighter, built by Chengdu Aerospace Corporation, is a single seat stealth fighter designed for long-range fighter missions such as attacking support aircraft including tankers with PL-12 beyond visual range air-to-air missiles (BVRAAM). (…) It is unknown how many J-20A aircraft are currently being flown by the PLAAF’s flight testing units and whether the aircraft have already been assigned to regular fighter squadrons. Some estimated put the number at six to 13. (…) a major obstacle remains the lack of an advanced Chinese-made jet engine for the fifth-generation stealth fighter … The domestically developed WS-15 turbofan engine, a thrust engine under development since the 1990s, has not entered serial production. It is assumed that the first patch of J-20s is equipped with an unknown variant of the Saturn AL-31, an older Russian-made jet engine (…) However, Popular Science reports that images have surfaced of J-20A stealth fighter jets WS-10 turbofan engines, developed and manufactured in China. (…) clear sign that China rapidly wants to break its reliance on Russian-made engines.

Un Chengdu J-20

*Generale CA (Riserva)