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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

J-20 ‘Mighty Dragon’ Optimised For Air Dominance

Within 24 hours of India and Russia inking a preliminary design contract (PDC) for the joint development of the twin-engined, tandem-seat 17.2-tonne Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (now called Perspective Multi-role Fighter), China’s Chengdu Aircraft Industries Corp (CAC) on December 22 last year rolled out the first (No2001) of two flying prototypes of its fifth-generation single-seat J-20 ‘Mighty Dragon’ 23-tonne air dominance multi-role combat aircraft. Subsequently, high-speed taxi trials of this prototype got underway, and its maiden flight, lasting 20 minutes, took place on January 11 at 12.50pm. Under development since 1998, the JXX, to be known as the Jian J-20 once it enters service by 2017, has been jointly designed by the CAC’s Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute No611 and Shenyang Aircraft Corp’s 601 Institute. The Shenyang Aero-Engine Research Institute, or Institute 606, was tasked in 1998 with developing the JXX’s 18,350kg-thrust (180kN) Woshan WS-15/Qinling-2 turbofan and its thrust-vectoring nozzles. J-20 No2001, though, is powered by twin WS-10G Taihang turbofans (each rated at 135kN and equipped with FADEC controls), since the WS-15 will not be available until 2012. The WS-10G has been developed by Guizhou-based Honglin Group (AVIC's Factory No143). The J-20 is next scheduled to go from Chengdu to the China Flight Test Establishment (CFTE) at Yanliang, which is located northeast of Xian in central China’s Shaanxi province. There, the two J-20 prototypes will undergo several phases of flight-tests and systems integration refinements, a process which will last until 2014. Following this, the first batch of up to eight CAC-built limited series production J-20s will be deployed first to the PLAAF’s Dingxin air base, located in north-central China near the Shuangchengzi missile test range, for weapons qualification trials, and then to the PLAAF-owned Flight Test & Training Centre (FTTC) at Cangzhou air base south of Beijing, where service induction procedures will be tried, applied and finalised. Following this, the PLAAF is expected, by late 2017, to form a J-20 operational conversion unit at Jiugucheng air base with up to 16 J-20s.
The existence of the J-20 was first announced in a November 2009 interview on Chinese CCTV by Lt Gen He Weirong, deputy commander of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). He had then said that a ‘fourth-generation’ combat aircraft would be flown in late 2010 and become operational between 2017 and 2019. Work on fabricating the first of two J-20 flying prototypes got underway in late 2007 at CAC’s No132 Aircraft Plant and a year later a full-scale mock-up was available for airframe fatigue-testing purpose. The J-20 has been designed to have a 0.05 square-metre radar cross-section (head-on), and its airframe features a large dihedral canard-delta wing configuration, with a pair of outward/rearward canted all-moving combined vertical/horizontal tails and similarly large, outward canted ventral fins/strakes which, if all-moving like the tails, will make for some quite advanced capability options in the areas of controllability and manoeuvrability. The flat body sides are aligned with the canted tails, the wing-body junction is clean, and there is a sharp chine line around the forward fuselage. The stealth shaping is without doubt considerably better than that seen in the two Sukhoi OKB-designed T-50 PAK-FA multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) prototypes, and even more so, than that seen in the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The design appears to be largely built around the stealth shaping design rules employed in the Lockheed Martin F/A-22A Raptor. Takeoff weight is estimated to be 80,000lb without any weapons payload. The fuselage length is 21.5 metres, wingspan is 13.8 metres, height is 5 metres, and the weapon’s bay’s length is 6.52 metres. The chined nose section and frameless canopy bear a close resemblance to those of the F/A-22A, as do the trapezoidal edge aligned engine inlets, though they appear to be larger and employ a diverterless supersonic inlet design, obviously intended to reduce inlet edge signature. The J-20’s wing-fuselage join, critical for beam and all-aspect stealth, is both in shaping and angle very similar to that of the F/A-22A, and clearly superior to those on the T-50 PAK-FA and F-35 JSF. The flat lower fuselage and planform alignment is optimal for all aspect wideband stealth, and closely emulates the F/A-22A’s design. The nose and main undercarriage doors employ X-band optimised edge-serration technology similar to that on board the F-117A Nighthawk and F/A-22A. The main landing gears retract into body-side bays, indicating the likely presence side weapon bays ahead of them. The ground clearance is appreciably higher, which would facilitate loading precision-guided air-to-surface munitions. Features at the rear of the aircraft—including underwing actuator fairings, aft fuselage tailbooms, fins/strakes, axisymmetrical engine exhausts and the ventral fins—appear less compatible with stealth. The airframe configuration and aft fuselage shape is compatible with both thrust vector control (TVC) nozzle design, or a non-TVC rectangular nozzle designed for controlled infra-red emission patterns and radio-frequency stealth. The airframe configuration is compatible with ventral and side opening internal weapon bays, and large enough to match or exceed, by some degree, the internal weapons payload of the F/A-22A. Internal fuel capacity is also likely to be high, given the fuselage configuration and large internal volume of the big delta wing. This indicates an intent to provide a sustained supersonic cruise capability. There is also provision for an aerial refueling probe portside below the cockpit canopy.

Guided-weapons to be carried internally by the J-20 on four separate weapons bays include up to eight 16km-range PL-10 within-visual-range air combat missiles or 100km-range PL-21 ramjet-powered beyond-visual-range air combat missiles (jointly developed by CPMIEC and Leihua Electronic Technology Research Institute), along with the FT family of GPS-guided small-diameter bombs, especially the FT-6, which comes equipped with twin glide wings. The PL-21 will incorporate an on-board two-way data link to expand the missile’s engagement envelope and support the increased HOBS capability. It will allow a third party, such as another combat aircraft or an AEW & C platform, to take control of the missile, allowing the firing aircraft to break away directly after launch. Two-way data links have the potential to increase weapon effectiveness during long-range engagements, since they could allow the missile to pass information on target characteristics and target behaviour to the launch platform as the engagement proceeds. Both the PL-10 and PL-21 will house a sub-millimetre wave-imaging fuze operating at frequencies above 200GHz to detect and classify the target aircraft and select the aimpoint for the ‘mass-focussed’ warhead to make sure more fragments hit their mark.

The integrated avionics suite will be of the open architecture-type and use the MIL-STD-1553B databus. The suite will incorporate features like automated data fusion, emission control and low-probability-of-intercept data links to build an operational picture for the pilot without giving away the aircraft’s own location. Elements of the suite will include an active phased-array multi-mode radar now being developed by the China Electronics Technology Group Corp’s (CETC) Nanjing Research Institute for Electronic Technology (NRIET, also known as the No14 Research Institute); retractable Hongguang-2 imaging infra-red search-and-track sensor (that includes a HgCdTe focal array with imaging infra-red capability) with 75km-range developed by Sichuan Changhong Electric Appliance Corp; Xian-based Cigong Group’s holographic heads-up display and helmet-mounted display (the latter being a copy of the ZSh-7APN Sura-K HMD designed by the Arsenal Central Design Bureau State Enterprise of Ukraine); optronic missile approach warning-cum-countermeasures dispensing system developed by the Luoyang Optical-Electronic Technology Development Centre; and a quadruplex fly-by-wire flight control system, integrated communications suite, defensive aids sub-systems, low probability of intercept IFF transponder, TACAN, and an all-glass cockpit, all developed by the Suzhou-based AVIC Radar and Avionics Equipment Research Institute and the China Leihua Electronic Technology Institute (CLETRI, also known as the 607th Institute). The J-20’s all-glass cockpit will feature twin ruggedised 8-inch by 20-inch panoramic active-matrix liquid crystal displays (PAMLCD) with both intuitive touch-screen and direct voice input usage, plus four smaller AMLCDs. The PAMLCD is an open system architecture-compatible dual redundant display that presents crisp, clear high-fidelity graphics and video overlays with a revolutionary infra-red touch screen human machine interface. A substantial portion of the J-20’s avionics LRUs were developed in cooperation with Ukraine’s Special Radio Device Design Bureau, Topaz Company, the Donetsk National Technical University, and SKB RTU. The internally-mounted directional jamming system, using active phased-array T/R modules, is being jointly developed by Southwest China Research Institute of Electronic Equipment, and the No51 Research Institute, which is also known as the Shanghai Research Institute of Microwave Equipment (SRIME). The same consortium is also developing the J-20’s ADF and VOL/ILS receivers.— Prasun K. Sengupta

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow !!!!

gives you a complex, what ???? and, here we can't get the 3.5Gen Tejas operational .............

Hope the MOD wakes up........we would really need the MMRCA (Rafale ??)quick time...........

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

One really cannot compare the PRC with India on several military-industrial counts, principally because the PRC focusses all its capabilities and powers towards the objective of becoming a full-spectrum comprehensive power. Consequently, despite the EU/US arms embargo imposed since 1989, the PRC has still managed, for instance, to not only acquire the aircraft carrier Varyag, but has also managed to lay its hands on all the required technical data packages from Ukraine and other CIS republics for making this ship operational. It has also successfully reverse-engineered the Su-33 into the J-15. And what has Russia done so far to protest against such IPR thefts/violations? Not even a whimper has emerged from Moscow, which instead invited the PLA Navy Chief to visit the aircraft carrier Kuznetsov! That's the clout one enjoys when it single-mindedly and ruthlessly pursues its objectives, no matter what the cost. India, on the other hand, is decades away from attaining the 'enlightened strategic mindset' reqd for formulating policies aimed becoming a comprehensive power.

PrabhuG said...

Hi
The only doubt i had is this, If rest of the whole world struggling to design and produce a fifth generation fighter how come chinese are able to design and produce it very fast.Assuming chinese got it from Ukraine .Even sukhoi corporation struggles to design 5th gen fighter to satisfy Indian needs.
If the rest of the world struggles to get a military equipment wholly done locally (i.e designed manufactured)(even russia had to remove its restrictions) how chinese are able to do one (without any learning curve)?for example the NPO saturn which supplies engines still struggling to a make a engine for the PAK-FA how chinese are able to make one evne without an existing engine.

Anonymous said...

Hi Prasun,

Long back i had red your article on Force Magazine regarding the upgrade planned for Sukhoi 30MKI to make it Super Sukhoi.

But in the recent news nothing was mentinoed about the smart skin implementation for the same. Can you please post the complete article and also furthe details/comments on this

Anonymous said...

Read in the TOI today......that the C-17 deal will be signed within this month....finally AKA/MOD taking some action.....

It also said that the balance 4 P-8I deal and 6 more C-130's should happen pretty soon.....

So now with the State elections over, can one hope the other deals will also move....Basic Trainer, M-977 Howziters, Javelins (or read a report that IAI Spike has been selected), Jaguar re-engine......

Also, what happened to Spartan C-27 ????? BSF cancelled the tender saying some "fraud" in approval.....

Anonymous said...

Another Helicopter went down yesterday (a BSF Chetak)....that's the 4th one this year........
When will the MOD wake up and close the Light Helicopter Deal (with Eurocopter ??)Pending last 3+ years.....

Austin said...

Prasun how certain are you about PMF is 17.2 T Medium Aircraft and not similar to Russian PAK-FA in size and capability ?

All the materials that I have read so far would indicate PMF is a twin seater PAK-FA.

It would take significant effort from Russia and India side to design a new fighter which can run into many years if not a decade.

I would assume ADA AMCA would be in 17 T class while PMF similar to PAK-FA would be in 29 T class.

Why would AMCA and PMF end with with similar weight category ?

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

To Anon@9.59AM: In my view all existing Chetaks and Cheetahs can serve for at least another 20 years without any hazard if they are re-engined with a new powerpack based on the Ardiden 1H/Shakti engine.

Austin, the evolutionary process of the PMF and its design characteristics were explained with great clarity in a 2005 interview given to FORCE by the then CAS of the IAF, ACM S P Tyagi. The preliminary design of the PMF, supported by scale-model wind-tunnel tests, was completed as far back as July 2005. All this has been documented and reproduced in interviews published by FORCE over the past six years. Therefore, no one is obliged to believe whatever I’ve stated about the FGFA/PMF thus far; instead I would urge everyone to delve into the mass of the above-mentioned published interviews to seek corroborative evidence. Just because the FGFA/PMF’s design has not yet been publicly released (unlike that of the PAK-FA), it does not automatically mean that it doesn't exist. And as for the much touted AMCA, I personally would not give any credence to it for as long as it exists only on paper and is not supported by a codified, documented and financed technology demonstration/prototype development programme. I have thus far seen far too many DRDO-initiated R & D programmes that have not seen the light of day.

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

To PrabhuH@11.29AM: I don’t think the word ‘struggle’ appropriately characterises the on-going efforts in the US, Russia, China, Japan and South Korea to develop fifth-generation combat aircraft. Yes, there are technological challenges for sure, but they are not insurmountable. Russia could have far advanced its T-50 PAK-FA’s R & D efforts since 2000 had it taken some painful decisions aimed at military-industrial consolidation. Instead, United Aircraft Corp was born only four years ago. And recently, PM Vladimir Putin had publicly stated at 40% of state funding for military R & D goes waste, since the Russian armed forces have no need for the results emanating from the sprawling number of R & D projects that were originally sanctioned. Now, imagine what could have been achieved had such wastage been avoided for the past decade. The Chinese have learnt from all the weaknesses of the Russian military-industrial complex and have taken great care to ensure that such wastage does not take place when developing the J-20. And to really understand how the Chinese have overcome the learning curve one must have to undertake a visit to the military-industrial R & D establishment clusters that have, since the mid-1990s, sprung up in areas like Chengdu, Shandong, Tianjin, Nanjing and Shenyang. Most of these clusters were set up with the help of highly skilled human resources imported from the former CIS republics. There were no shortcuts, instead a huge financial investments that countries like India can only dream of, were made by China. And one could see the results of such investments once every two years since 1996 during the successive air shows in Zhuhai.
Actually, I’m not at all surprised by your lack of insight into China military R & D achievements and I don’t hold it against you. Because, regretfully, in India, when it comes to according adequate coverage on Chinese military-industrial achievements/capabilities, the national mainstream print/broadcast media has failed miserably to keep track of or report on the above-mentioned points. With the exception of FORCE magazine and my blog, has any other magazine or on-line blog ever done any in-depth reportage on any Chinese aerospace/defence-electronics expo thus far? Do they even visit such expos, while running helter-skelter to take joyrides of combat aircraft during the expos in Paris, Farnborough, Zhukovsky or Bengaluru? Have they ever written about any new-generation China-made military product in the way they do about products of North American/Scandinavian/European/Russian origin? Do they even visit the exhibition booths of Chinese companies that are seen at the expos held in Europe, Southeast Asia and Russia? Have any of the on-line blogs and national broadcast media ever done any detailed reportage or analysis of the PLA’s ORBAT in the Chengdu and Lanzhou military regions? Lastly, do these entities even bother to visit Karachi where the IDEAS defence expos have been held since the past decade? In sharp contrast, I have been reporting on every airshow held in Zhuhai since 1996 and every IDEAS expo since 2000), and I’ve over the years gained the trust and confidence of several Chinese OEMs (including Chinese shipbuilding companies) who have invited me to visit their industrial sites in Sichuan, Shanghai and Beijing and write about them on nauseating detail. Personally, I’m extremely proud about this rather unique achievement, which has given me a unique insight into cutting-edge Chinese military R & D prowess, and I’m equally proud about the fact that in almost every issue of FORCE magazine since January 2004 my feature-length articles on Chinese (as well as Pakistani) military-industrial activities and PLA’s (and Pakistan’s) force modernisation programmes have been religiously published, and this work continues till this day.

Qamar said...

"" Prasun K. Sengupta said... I have been reporting on every airshow held in Zhuhai since 1996 and every IDEAS expo since 2000), and I’ve over the years gained the trust and confidence of several Chinese OEMs (including Chinese shipbuilding companies) who have invited me to visit their industrial sites in Sichuan, Shanghai and Beijing and write about them on nauseating detail. Personally, I’m extremely proud about this rather unique achievement, which has given me a unique insight into cutting-edge Chinese military R & D prowess, and I’m equally proud about the fact that in almost every issue of FORCE magazine since January 2004 my feature-length articles on Chinese (as well as Pakistani) military-industrial activities and PLA’s (and Pakistan’s) force modernisation programmes have been religiously published, and this work continues till this day.""

very true, i have never seen such a detailed work about the China Pakistan deals any where else.

Especially the news about lease of SSN to PN, Sale of type 054A, Type 022 missile boats, FC-20, ZDK03 and list keeps on going

Great work sir,

Unknown said...

Very right