back to article China's 'stealth fighter' flies – brown trouser time, or not?

The death-tech beat has spoken of little else but China's new "stealth fighter" for some weeks now – and yesterday, funnily enough just as the US Defense Secretary was visiting Beijing, the J-20 (or whatever it may turn out to be officially called) finally took to the air. The People's Republic is making no real effort to keep …


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  1. Andrew Moore

    I'm sure...

    the only reason China has done this is so it can sell a bucket load of them to the US for a fraction of the cost of an F22.

    1. Mark 65 Silver badge

      The Chinese Xerox machine

      "the only reason China has done this is so it can sell a bucket load of them to the US for a fraction of the cost of an F22."

      Nice theory, highly topical with US outsourcing (and I'm sure you're being satirical) but I doubt it. This thing just looks like yet another cheap shitty Chinese copy of a Western design and its only saving grace is that they can probably knock it out by the thousand and have ample pilots (or meatsacks at least) to fly them. Missiles to knock it out the sky are probably still cheaper though even at Western prices.

      1. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD

        Cheap shitty copy...

        of a Russian design perhaps... It just looks so...

        but nevertheless, how many countries can do this?

        If it's main _PURPOSE_ of existence is to provide some sort of perceived deterrence to any US carrier group closing in on Chinese soil, it may just be successful in that role.

        Consider :

        (1) How would a US carrier group actually cope _in_practice_ with a zerg of anti-ship missles..

        (2) How many planes/missiles it would cost China to nail a US carrier if push came to shove. This number probably really exists, I am thinking something like 10-20 planes maybe but who the hell really knows? If a better plane design, even though incremental and not revolutionary, had the potential to reduces this number, it is probably worth it.

        (3) This is NOT Soviet era Russia we're talking about. This is China in the 21st century. They make iPads, Eee PC's. They have cloned their own MIPS. One would do well not to underestimate them. Both their technical prowess and actual manufacturing capability.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fly 'em into the ground

    Would be nice to see these fly right into the ground due to computer programming defects.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fly 'em into the ground

      Fly into the ground?

      I think you're getting China mixed up with Japan.

    2. Deadly_NZ

      or maybe they as safe as the cars made in China

      either way safe is NOT a word I would use in conjunction with anything made in china.

      Look at their toys Still have lead paint, thousands of times above the legal limit and little bits that fall off and choke the children. watch the car one and tell me you would even want to get into one.

    3. Big-nosed Pengie

      Programming defects?

      What - they're running Windows?

  3. Richard Gadsden 1

    India? Russia?

    China has more borders than their Eastern one.

    To the South and Southwest lies India, a country they've already had one shooting war with, and the host for the Dalai Lama - obviously being supported to try to subvert Chinese control over Tibet.

    To the North and Northwest is Russia, another country they've already had a shooting war with.

    Improving their military capabilities vis-a-vis these is a far more attainable goal than butting heads with the USA.

    Also, China's military budget might be small, but the Renminbi is artificially held low, so the money is worth more than the nominal value - and the low wages and prices in China means that the same money goes a lot further; you get a lot more soldiers and airmen to the yuan than you do to the dollar - which means you have more left after salaries to pay for R&D.

    1. Dapprman

      Well put

      China is more likely to go to war over a resource grab with India or Russia than the US, even with the Taiwan situation.

      As to the engines - a number of reports have pointed out that they're having problems developing 5G power units, so they may well be testing with existing 3G or 4G jets, hence the shape of the afterburner control foils/spout (or what ever it's called).

    2. ian 22

      "With cat-like tread upon our way we steal!"

      So not really stealthy then. More in the Pirates of Penzance mode.

      But perhaps stealthy enough for the southern barbarians: India and Vietnam. And stealthy enough for the merchants of death to take another whack at our wallets.

    3. Mark 65 Silver badge

      Let's also not forget

      They also have a border with the fucking nutcases in North Korea.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Manned aircraft...

    ... that's so 20th century

    1. maclovinz

      Not writing checks...

      ...their asses can't cash, though!

      THAT, I will give them.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Manned aircraft

      Radio jammers.... thats of 1930's

      1. fatchap

        Manned aircraft

        Autonomous death dealing robots...that's the future (and the past if they get their way!).

      2. Alfred

        Mid 21st Century....

        Autonomous aircraft needing no such radio link.

  5. Paul_Murphy


    China can afford to wait around and let us bankrupt ourselves (especially the Americans) paying for our consumables.

    Once they have all of our money and credit they can just buy us up - one country at a time.


    1. Arctic fox

      @Paul_Murpy: You've got a point.

      Much more of the same old same old from the "masters of the universe" on Wall St and it will be a moot point whether or not the US government will be able to afford the Raptor's price tag. Its no good having the better technology if it costs so frakking much in relation to your GDP that you cannot pay for it. The Chinese seem to be pursuing a doctrine of "affordable strategic sufficiency", roughly translated as "we won't start it but it will cost you if you choose to get in our face". Might be something for certain Western powers to consider. If you can't afford to build it, you can't afford to fire it.

      1. Mark 65 Silver badge

        Unless of course

        Like many other countries China is rapidly garnering Western tastes particularly the "money-grabbing bastard" ones. If their runaway investment in the property market is anything to go by they could quite easily develop their own Wall Street tendencies and piss it all back down the drain.

  6. Tom_

    My dad's bigger than your dad

    Seems like the author has a bit of a throb on for the US military who have managed to win at wasting ten times as much money as everyone else.

    Well done.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      "Throb on"

      Is that a pistol in his pocket?

      That's Lewis Page so yes, it probably is.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      @Tom_: Yes, the repeated bias is tiresome

      The author believes (despite past form) that the US could actually win a war against a well armed adversary.

      Conveniently, he omits to mention China's ability to remove US aircraft carriers from the face of the planet:

      or their satellite removal technology:

      which would probably result in the US losing to Afghanistan!

      1. asdf

        lol doing the impossible

        Not even hundreds of billions of dollars and the might of the greatest army in the world can get Afghans to be anything but ignorant poppy growing goat farmers who refuse to leave the 12th century. Don't confuse putting a hurt on your enemy (2.5 million Vietnamese deaths to 60k American deaths) and building a nation.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Do not insult the Afghans.

          They are living in a state of war for 36 years now. You expect what kind of culture to flourish under these conditions already?

          As for our culture: daily soaps and what else for the last 20 years?

          Pray for our troops that nobody gives proper equipment to the Afghans, like Mr. Page's darlings did in the eighties.

          AC, obviously.

  7. daka

    Value for money?

    Surely the Chinese get more value for money on what they spend on the military? I mean, it's not like they are going to be paying the same mark up to private companies that USA and Europe do. A quarter of expenditure may very well mean the same amount of development.

    1. Marcus Aurelius

      Re: Value for money

      The Chinese maintain a much larger army for a much lower cost than the UK, US or any other developed nation, primarily due to the fact that the average wage can be much lower.

      Lewis does seem to have missed the point that it is believed that the current engines on their jet are only temporary until they can produce a stealthy, vectored thrust unit (with a greater power output), which is when the advantages against the US are going to significantly narrow.

      The plane itself is bigger than its rivals, meaning it has provision for more fuel and weapons capacity, so when it is out of the prototype stage, I expect that the US and UK defence analysts will stop laughing at it then

      1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

        ...or maybe not

        "The plane itself is bigger than its rivals, meaning it has provision for more fuel and weapons capacity, so when it is out of the prototype stage, I expect that the US and UK defence analysts will stop laughing at it then"

        Hmm, read what Boyd had to say on that subject. Thinking that bigger is better is what made US fighters from Vietnam-era jets to the F14 relative dogs.

        What counts is thrust:weight ratio and the fuel+payload fraction of the MTOW, not absolute size.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Its a bomber...

          Not a fighter.

          Now maybe the sniggering can stop.

      2. AtomDreams

        Time freeze

        "...which is when the advantages against the US are going to significantly narrow."

        That would only be true if the U.S. military stopped researching and developing new aircraft. As it is, the J20 (supposedly China's most advanced fighter aircraft), is at least 10-15 years behind the west. By the time China works out any kinks and sends the prototype to production, the U.S. would have produced advanced aircraft that would make the J20 obsolete.

        1. Arctic fox

          @AtomDreams: Time compression in fact..

          Technological/Industrial development in this or that country does not follow the same timeline in each successive country that goes through the phase concerned. Britain was the first country to go through what historians now call the Industrial Revolution. The "dates" commonly accepted are from approximately halfway through the eighteenth century to about halfway through the 19th - by which time Britain was no longer primarily an agricultural nation. One hundred years. Do you believe that all the countries in Europe that followed Britain into the Industrial Age needed to go through 100 years of industrial development to achieve parity? Of course not. The fact that the Chinese are 15 years behind NOW does not mean that the "techno-time-gap" will be the same in, say, five years time. Take a look at consumer electronics, they've gone from merely being the Western Worlds low rent assembly line to being a major player in that area - in what? Bout ten years or so?

  8. ColinP

    Bad for business

    Modern China has no interest in agression or expansion. Why on earth would they need to when they will be the major economic power in the world by the end of the century? War with your major trading partners tends to be bad for business.

    So this fighter isn't some sort of escalation of their ambitions. At most, it'll be used to keep those uppity North Koreans in check and will be available for export to anybody who wants it, at a fraction of the cost of an F-35, and completely unhindered by US trade embargoes. Expect Iran to be a client. Again, it's all good for business.

    1. Marcus Aurelius

      War with your major trading partner

      May be bad for business but that doesn't stop war happening. cf France v Germany, rounds 1,2,3....

      1. byrresheim


        The (thank you, anglosphere) highly successful french landgrab started in the late 16th century and went right on until it suffered an minor setback at the end of the first Napoleon's reign and a larger setback at the end of the third Napoleon's reign. That was later corrected by Lloyd George and Wilson, and again by Roosevelt and St Churchill and we rest at that.

        But for the cold war, the french would by now have territory on both sides of the Rhine - nearing what they arrived at around 1800, before being pushed back a bit.

        So your count is not exact at all. What you are talking about are roughly rounds 29-31.

    2. 68 SK LFG

      Full Stop

      Making proclamations about what China has in mind for the future and only considering economics as a factor is pretty damn stupid. They will be under tremendous pressure due to their one child madness. Madness because Asian culture values males over females and because of that, their male/female ratio is horrible - read somewhere it will reach 10-1 shortly. So what do you do with all those swinging dicks out there? Send 'em to war, get some stuff back, get some extra stuff. Cut your male population down and get new stuff. Win Win.

      Hell, the Number One reason to go to war is ego. My balls are bigger than yours.

      In any case, shit happens and anything else is a best guess.

      (I have a sneaking suspicion that China will be fighting the Middle Eastern Islamic countries one day. Close to each other and they don't exchange Christmas cards either - not much love lost)

  9. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Maybe it's not aimed at the US

    China has any number of border disputes with non-aligned countries - most especially with Vietnam and India. How would the J-20 compare to their latest aircraft should Beijing decide that these matters need to be resolved without resorting to diplomacy?

  10. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. kororas


      Really ? I thought it was a bunch of speculation.

    2. Anton Ivanov

      I would beg to differ

      While the article is spot on regarding the Chinese contraption, I would beg to differ regarding the assessment of Russian's flight, military spending and aircraft development.

      1. Russian pilots used to fly a couple of hours a year for more than 15 years till 2007-ish, Putin changed that. At least some units are clocking very reasonable air hours now. You would not get Bears patrolling down the US Eastern Seabord and UK coast and White Swans in Venezuela with a couple of hours a year. Similarly, units are being re-equipped, upgraded and brought to combat spec. It is nowhere near the heyday of military spending under Andropov, but it is not 2 hours a year either.

      2. The assessment of Su-TAKPA being 1985 tech is totally off the mark:

      2.1. No US stealth aircraft had flight vector alteration in 1985. TAKPA already has it and has flown with it. That puts it firmly on par with the maiden flight of the Raptor which is 1997, if not later.

      2.2. It shares a lot of its design with Su-[27..37] and most of the "weird aerodynamics" and "damn, what do we do with these composite materials" problems have been looked at during the development of the upgrades to these as well as the development of the Berkut. It is not a leap of faith like the F-117 and the B2 so putting that much time between now and it being production is wishful thinking.

      3. Su-TAKPA is intended to be _SOLD_. Up to 500 in total. Coming back to the wishful thinking about how long it will take for it to be production - I would not be surprised if first orders for it will be taken from India by the end of this year. This is especially so after the Chinese first flight. Similarly, I would not be surprised if Pakistan would put preliminary orders on the Chinese contraption before year end as well.

      1. Pan Narrans

        re: I would beg to differ

        Is the Su-TAKPA the same as the PAK-FA ( Because the 400 or so PAK-FAs being built by Russia and India will be what the J-20 is intended to counter (though my money's on the Sukhoi there should they ever tangle).

        To those who say "Raptor Rules All" - I say "pride goeth before the fall". Depending on who you listen to, the PAK-FA could well come as a very nasty surprise to the F-22. Kopp's analysis ( makes for interesting reading at least.

        Page says "America is my sugar daddy" and Kopp says "oh noes! Russian fighters!". Take the average of both perspectives and you might find some reality.

        So in short, dismiss the Chinese and Russian efforts at your peril. They might just be more capable than we think.

        1. Anton Ivanov
          Thumb Up

          Yep, I meant the PAK-FA

          Writing it at the end of a long day I guess...

          In any case giving an aircraft which is already on the delivery schedule equivalence to a 1985 early prototype is disingenuous at best.

          While I would not fully agree with the article you point it, a stealthy fighter jet with an aerial agility on par with Su-35 achieves at least parity with F-35 even prior to having 5th gen engines. I would not go as far as makes it obsolete for now though. It has the potential, but it is clearly not there.

          In any case - 400 of those out there sold to Argentina, Venezuela, Iran, Libia, Syria and a few of the other usual suspects change the equations of world air force parity quite a bit. We may actually live to welcome the Chinese bringing some competition into this so that these slag it off against each other while we sit and watch.

        2. Arctic fox

          @Pan Narrans: I agree, a little more humility.....

          ......would be a military advantage - it stops you underestimating the "enemy". I seem to recall that when a Soviet pilot defected with a Foxbat (Mig 25) via Japan in the middle 70s the Americans were highly entertained to discover that some onboard systems used thermionic valves. They stopped laughing when someone reminded them that such systems were less vulnerable than ones based on transistors if an HEMP device were deployed.

  11. Nick Davey

    The Chinese Stealth Fighter...

    ..called the J-20, I wonder what flavour they'll finally be available in, Apple & Melon, Orange and Passionfruit, Raspberry...

  12. Swoop


    J20 - does it come in orange & passion fruit and apple & mango flavours?

    OK, I'm going!

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Quantity has a Quality all of it's own

    The article forgets to mention that the plane doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be good enough, when you can fill the skies with them, and the oposition only has a couple of dozen "full up" stealth fighters to hand.

    Also how many of these are China going to sell to india, pakistan, et al?

    1. zanto

      RE: Also how many of these are China going to sell to india, pakistan, et al?

      go back and read on current affairs, china and india are engaged in a border dispute.

  14. Brian Miller

    Of course UK + France > China's spending

    Come on now, of course the UK and France are spending more than China! One never knows when those two will be at each other again.

  15. F111F

    Only One Problem...

    with the author's one in the US DoD is even bothering to give this thing a second glance, let alone go "brown trousers" over it. Did the author really expect no one to sit up and take notice when China produces a "fifth generation" aircraft? Of course the various pundits are going to do their thing, from both sides of the argument...that's what pundits do. So a "Well Done!" on highlighting the very obvious and wasting our time. The course is fixed for the next decade or so. Continue testing unmanned fighters/bombers until they can pass the "interesting, but what good is it?" stage; and secondly, get a replacement bomber for the B-52s, B-1s, and B-2s, most of which are older than the readers on this site and I suspect the author as well.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      Not a problem..

      If you read the article again you may discover that Lewis does NOT consider the current edition a threat - but it's a significant milestone nevertheless.

      I think Lewis has been pretty much spot on in his analysis - good article.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    RN implications?

    Would be interesting to model how well a couple of these armed with sea skimmers would do against our new £1bn+/hull destroyers?

    1. Marcus Aurelius


      I would skip Sea Skimming missiles and see if they could be used to get a decent sized guided torpedo on the way. No Gatling CIWS is going to stop that......

      1. Volker Hett

        Yes but ...

        according do Lewis, Subs with Torpedos are no threat at all, especially for carriers :)

        Pirate because that's closest.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    China surely populated by legions of idiots who can't read and write, who don't know Physics and Chemistry. Only idiots could invent Silk while others wore that solid dead-bear-skin. And only idiots would need a compass when Vikings simply used the sun. What you say ? No sun. Dammit.

    Before you don't know something substantial about a potential adversary's systems, it is best to refrain from ridiculing said systems. There are Chinese engineers who can write RF modelling code and use RF modelling code. Also, there are Chinese engineers who can read certain uncontrolled publications where this Mil-RFy issues are discussed.

    There is not much known about the J-20 and it might turn out that there is an innovative concept behind it. It might turn out that they made serious progress on engine durability. It might turn out that this aircraft is part of an elaborate tactical concept and part of a large program to achieve a certain capability. As a wild guess, long-range strike paired with an attack on reconnaissance assets of a potential adversary of China.

    Never underestimate what opponents might achieve on tiny budgets. Tiny budgets mean someone with a sharp mind and a sharp pencil might have developed something clever and quite effective. Some people call this "asymmetric approach".

    Look up the T-34 and the Vympel AAM. World-leading Russian technology exposed only after the fact.

    1. Dapprman

      Strictly speaking

      China has not yet developed any millitary tech of it's own, only updated/altered Soviet/Russian planes, tanks, fire arms and ships. Even the 'state of the art' J9 fighter is rumoured to be a clone of the IAI Lavi, oh and the uprated avionics were sold to them by Israel.

      Still you are right about their inventive and technical skills through out the Millennia, however the last couple of centuries have seen them lag behind by quite some distance.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Whatabout this:

        Did they use Russkie tech for that ? I don't think so.

    2. Arctic fox


      "Look up the T-34 and the Vympel AAM. World-leading Russian technology exposed only after the fact."

      We can be grateful that the Abwehr did not at the outset understand what the T-34 could do. The German army found out of course at the Battle of the Kursk Salient when the Red Army ripped the guts out of the German army. My personal vote for "my best tank"!

  18. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Fighting the wrong war

    When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

    Likewise when you have the biggest collection of military hardware in the world, everyone else looks like an enemy. They're not. Mostly they simply aren't interested in what you think.

    The Economist recently [4 Dec 2010] had an article about the ascension of China and the decline of the USA. It's conclusion was that China is perfectly capable of expressing its economic dominance without the need or desire to go nose-to-nose with anyone else. It knows it has time on its side and if the worst did happen it could just unload its trillions of dollars of american debt and screw them into the ground economically rather than militarily. Though there's no need for that when nature is taking its course.

    So, on that basis, I'd be prepared to view the possibility of a chinese stealth jet more as a chain-yanking effort (possibly showing the chinese sense of humour: "woooohooooo - we're coming to geeeeet you - nah, we're just messin'") that will allow them to laugh at the overreaction it will cause from their insecure and terrified neighbours on the other side of the pacific.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      RE: Fighting the wrong war

      explain that to the people of Taiwan,

      "In early March 1996 China began a week-long series of ballistic missile tests and announced it will conduct an additional set of live fire military maneuvers as well. Together they constituted the fourth set of major military exercises the People's Liberation Army had undertaken in the straits since July 1995. On March 5, 1996, the Xinhua News Agency announced that the People's Republic of China would conduct missile tests from March 8 through March 15, 1996, within 25 to 35 miles of the 2 principal northern and southern ports of Taiwan , Kaohsiung and Keelung. On March 9, China announced plans to conduct live-ammunition war exercises in the Strait of Taiwan until March 20."

      The party also plays to the audiance at home, the same way (for example) the argentine generals use to.

      Reclaiming Taiwan would be a "good way" of distracting a mob as far as the Party machine would be concerned, US 7th fleet in the way or not, especially if the PRC thinks that the US President would run away.

      This is why the PLA play silly games with US spy planes every time a new president is elected.

      Hence when China starts arming up with aircraft carriers and new generation of fighters, people start worry how they might be used.

    2. Mark 65 Silver badge

      @Pete 2

      "The Economist recently [4 Dec 2010] had an article about the ascension of China and the decline of the USA. It's conclusion was that China is perfectly capable of expressing its economic dominance without the need or desire to go nose-to-nose with anyone else. It knows it has time on its side and if the worst did happen it could just unload its trillions of dollars of american debt and screw them into the ground economically rather than militarily. Though there's no need for that when nature is taking its course."

      The Economist reads more and more like a glorified red-top publication as each day passes. Personally I'd like to see this play out. Ditch the US's debt in it's entirety eh? How? To sell there must be a buyer, even if it's for precious little. Say you even could offload, and say you could even screw them into the ground. I think the rest of the World's economy then goes to shit at the same time and who do the Chinese sell their cheap knock-off crap to then?

      The whole thing is a red-herring as both parties need each other and that's how the debt ownership came about - the Chinese had to keep financing the US consumer so that they'd keep buying their shit so they could then build empty cities and move people out of the country to the cities etc etc. It's estimated (I believe from this same oft-arserag publication) that GDP growth less than 6% (or thereabouts) constitutes an effective recession for the Chinese. Check for yourself how their economy went when the US went down. They have their own financial issues don't you worry.

  19. Avatar of They

    Best line ever.

    "US supercarriers each equivalent to a mobile Taiwan"

    That is all.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Red herring

    My guess (probably really off the mark) is that this is a red herring, and they are working on a much more capable aircraft, but this is what we are looking for, a not too capable semi-stealthy plane. Hence, when push comes to shove, initially at least we will be caught with our pants around our ankles...

  21. asiaseen

    It's a fake...

    given that the Chinese will fake anything and everything (eggs, milk, pilots' licences, cars. you name it).

    Even if it isn't, I don't have much confidence in the ability of the PLA air force to operate effectively. Their experience level is low. For instance, the much-vaunted astronauts of a couple of years ago were "top fighter pilots", and indeed, squadron commanders, with 1000 hours each flying time which, frankly, ain't very much. If the chiefs have so little experience, the squadron joes aren't either.

    1. Pete 2 Silver badge

      Re: faking it

      Yeah, their fakery has got to the point now where they're faking stuff that we in the west haven't even invented yet.

      1. asdf


        You mean faking edible protein in food items? Oh wait that right we have laws that prevent us faking that as killing toddlers for $$$ has to be a bit more subtle these days in the west.

  22. James Hughes 1

    If I was China

    I'd be designing and building these things, getting on with R&D and development, to the point where any potential adversaries are thinking - we need to up our military budget to make sure we stay ahead.

    China just needs to keep bimbling along spending practically nothing (in comparison) whilst everyone else spends what little cash they have left in some archaic mines bigger than yours way.

    Eventually, China are the only country left with any cash, and can take over the world.

    Without a single shot being fired.

    I'm off to to learn Mandarin.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      ...don't forget the tech effect

      ...don't forget the tech effect - after all, these things have to start somewhere. Effectively forcing hard-up competing nations to blow even more cash at a time when they ought to be saving it is a great strategy.

      And as for the tech, doubtless parts of the odd crashed stealth plane are already in PRC hands, therefore there's a start somewhere. It's far easier to learn from others and to improve on it than it is to do all the hard work yourself. Besides, just like a space program, the filtering down of research into other industries is invaluable. Who cares if the first plane is especially stealthy? The lessons learnt from it will help the next one, and so on. Keep it cheap and don't try to invent something spectacular and unwieldy in the first iteration (e.g. something that leaks fuel on the ground) and improvements will come.

  23. Anonymous Coward


    Also, China did not display that warmonger-attitude against other powers lately. Their concept of civilization is much less based on raiding and subjugating that Europeans of all shades (and that includes America) have been obsessed with. Japanese was infected by European warmongerism when "America opened their ports to Free Trade". At gunpoint, of course.

    At Perl Harbour, America got the dividend of their "port-openening".

    Maybe China simply wants to ensure the safety of the state and citizens ? Maybe their agenda is not driven by anger and subjugation of others as we Europeans (in the largest sense) are driven by ? Maybe it is enough for China to face down potential threats without attacking them ? Maybe they simply want a very sharp sabre without any intention to use it offensively ?

    Just some thoughts for modern Vikings to think about.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: SunTzu

      "Maybe their agenda is not driven by anger and subjugation of others as we Europeans (in the largest sense) are driven by ?"

      Thank you for that "finger on the pulse" insight from one hundred years ago. And whatever it is you have about the Vikings, people of that description lived a thousand years ago, not today.

      You're long overdue a reality update.

    2. arkhangelsk

      Chinese pacifism

      Before you are too sure about the Chinese being near pacifists, remember what happened in Vietnam in 1979, and what Deng Xiaoping said flat out to the United States about hitting the butts of "naughty children".

      It is the "naughty children" part that says a lot about how China really thinks about its smaller neighbors.

    3. asdf

      lesson of Pearl Harbor

      That is why Japan is now America east. All Pearl Harbor did was show that the crazy Americans were cold and brutal enough to get the people who never give up to give up unconditionally. Way to beat the USA is trick our sheeple with subtly. You flat out push us cowboys around and yes we will end the world if we have too just to show you.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah yes, more Yank worship from Lewis.

    The F-35 and F-22 are lumbering tanks not designed for agility, I know Lewis lives up the the yank military chuff, but the Typhoon will easily out manoeuvre either of them once the stealth aspect is dismissed via better radar.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Ah yes, more Yank worship from Lewis. → #

      "The Typhoon will easily out manoeuvre either of them once the stealth aspect is dismissed via better radar"

      This isn’t such a challenge as some would think against the F22. "Stealth" no longer just means obtuse angles and special black paint, it's more to do with the Radar and anti-detection devices on the inside of the Jet then anything on the outside. As a RAF Pilot once explained it;

      "If the computer in my Jet can confuse your Jets computer into think I’m a Swan, then you’re a sitting Duck"

      Ohh and the whole idea that the F22 and F35 are "5th Generation" planes while the Rafale, Gripen and Eurofigter are "4th Generation" is all bull, the Yanks made up the term 5th Generation fighter for the F22 brochure. Although that is before they realised that their plane was not as good as they previously thought (multiple times the F22 was handed its own Ar$e by so called 4th Generation Jets.) and decided not to make/sell anymore

      AC to try and stop the Black Helicopters from finding me!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        RE: your RAF friend's quote

        personally, were a fighter pilot in a hostile environment and my plane was convinced that there was a swan in the vicinity travelling at upwards of 400 mph I would be somewhat suspicious, to say the least.

        Remember that on the initial publicity flight of the B2 from the USA to the UK the B2 Spirit was tracked by the RAF the whole way and that stealth fighters were tracked over Kosovo through the mobile phone network.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Puny Earthlings

    Study war no more...or else you ain't getting off this planet.

  26. Rogue Genome
    Thumb Up


    The best idea I read is that its cheap stealth aircraft for developing nations. In those environments it probably would give you a significant advantage over your next door neighbours. Who aren't likely to have well - trained radar operators or a cohesive air defence policy.

  27. JamieL

    It's not just PRC that they need to defend

    What with the Chinese investments in various raw material sources around the world they'd benefit from the ability to get some sharp stuff onto the ground without necessarily having to advertise the fact first.

    I can foresee these J-20s turning up for "proving flights" on random African airfields and perhaps leaning on neighbours whenever mineral or mining negotiations are going on...

  28. arronzhang

    have you thought about this?

    That said, there is a possibility that China can build a steath aircraft nearly as good the the US one - be it F-22, F-35 and commission in 5 years time. Besides, how much does one of that cost? surely not 100 million dollars that no one can afford eough?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "A force of J-20s would find this hedge impenetrable"

    Phew, I feel so reassured and safe here behind our virtual Pacific Maginot line.

    1. Gavin King

      Maginot Line?

      I wonder what our virtual Pacific Belgium will be then?

  30. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Nice little earner

    I'm sure there are plenty of squalid little nations with hugely self obsessed leaders who'd spunk a wodge of the national treasury over this thing. A few dozen here, a few dozen there.

    Of course like the merkins the *very* best stuff only goes to people they *really* trust.

  31. Mike Echo

    Planes for sale - cheap.

    They are probably going to manufacture them in bulk to flog to nations that cannot afford western tech. The Chinese are great at making and selling cheap stuff (never mind the quality).

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the article misses the point

    Ask any Taiwanese (I lived there for years) and they all know that if the balloon goes up, they are on their own.

    Let's say the Chinese invaded Taiwan tomorrow. Do you *honestly* think the US would intervene and start shooting at Chinese boats or planes? Of course they wouldn't. For exactly the same reason that they aren't attacking North Korea despite it sinking South Korean ships and shelling South Korean civilians. Because they simply don't have the stomach for taking any risks with any country that might be able to pop a nuke back in response. It is laughable and ridiculous to suggest that the US would do anything more than wring its hands if China invaded Taiwan.

    The only thing preventing the Chinese going into Taiwan is Taiwan itself, and the fact the people would resist and the military could embarrass China.

    The Chinese are clever and patient. They know the US is sitting on a mountain of debt and it is just a matter of time before it pops and they have to massively cut their borrowing and start living within their means. These stealth fighters are not intended to fight US planes because the US is far too scared to ever go into battle with China. The planes and these images are aimed squarely at Taiwan.

    1. Mark 65 Silver badge


      "They know the US is sitting on a mountain of debt and it is just a matter of time before it pops and they have to massively cut their borrowing and start living within their means."

      and that debt is largely owned by the Chinese so they could just not pay them. What they going to do, nuke them?

      "These stealth fighters are not intended to fight US planes because the US is far too scared to ever go into battle with China."

      I'd say that largely cuts both ways.

  33. shaunorman


    I'm suprised it doesn't look like an iPhone.

  34. cmaurand

    Looks more like a F-35 than A F-22

    This thing looks more like the F35, but doesn't have the S/VTOL capabilities of the F35, nor does it have the vectored thrust or supercruise of either the F22 or F35. What struck me was the single engine fighter that went up with it. Its a copy of the F16. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

    1. The Infamous Grouse

      You must think in Russian

      Maybe it's the red stars on the tail and the huge exhaust nozzles, but I look at this thing and all I see is the front half of an F-35 welded to the arse end of the Firefox.

  35. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Sorry, good sir, but you're a bit mistaken. The US lost one F117 over bosnia, and that was a clever bit of work from the Air defense guys for bringing it down. All modern Stealth aircraft have variable transponders they turn on when not in hostile essence voluntarily lighting themselves up to be seen on radar to prevent mid-air collisions and the like for ATC's. Unless you have other evidence..?

      1. Mark 65 Silver badge


        I'll second that. The Aussies get all their shiny-shiny from the US anyhow (or the vast majority) and have an extremely poxy home grown capability so I sincerely doubt they could track it unless it was standing out like a hard-on in a convent.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: isapc

      "2 F22 got shot down over Bosnia after being tracked by Russian radar, the most likely reason for the halt of the F22 program."

      Heard that on the Interwebs, did you? Did the F-22 fly back through a time tunnel to be over Bosnia in the first place? You're probably thinking of the F-117.

  36. spegru

    Mountains of Debt

    do not ensure ownership of the rest of the world. Can you imagine what would happen if the Chinese tried to call it all in? Default that's what!

    They need our economies to succeed - otherwise their will fail.

    I will go further - If it was not for the success of Western economies, China even now, would be a completely agricultural economy.

    As to this plane - yes I can absolutely see it being sold to 3rd world countries, where it will be an irritant and a step along a global arms race.

    But as to China using it to take over the world - no, just no

    1. Bill B

      "Success of western economies"

      You may not have noticed but these successful western economies have tanked recently. The only substantial economic growth at the moment is in places like ... er .. China.

      Besides which, China has a massive internal market.

      Other posters have poo pooed Chinese quality. I'm old enough to remember when 'made in Japan' was a joke (cars, electronics etc). Japanese cars are now among the most reliable. Maybe China will follow the same path?

      1. 68 SK LFG

        minor update per quality

        The Chevy Equinox uses an engine built in China, ummm two years ago, three now.

        American industry gets major fail here ->points to Delphi. I mean really, wtf? (Amazing what organized labor could do for China, bring production costs up to par so we could compete again. But then China is already a worker's paradise so might be a challenge lol)

  37. mhenriday

    I don't if it's brown-trouser time or no,

    but I'm pretty sure where Mr Page has his nose. To whom does the «we»/«our» he constantly uses refer - Reg readers ? If so, he needs to be reminded that we are not all cheer leaders for the Evil Empire. One good thing about the article, however ; Mr Page makes explicit what he means by the geographically anomalous term «West» - «the US and its allies» (a better term, IMHO, would be «satrapies» rather than «allies», but that's another matter)....


  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If it barks...

    I'd be more than a little wary of writing something off as amateurish based on a few dodgy youtube video's shot through a fence. The Eurofighter's first lumbering outing at Farnborough in the 90s was frankly embarrassing, particularly when set against the stunning display by the vectored thrust Sukhoi that appeared on the same programme. Anyone who watched the display would have logically concluded that RAF mechanics would soon be learning to read Russian repair manuals, but as we all know, the Typhoon quickly outclassed all its rivals - it must have done, cos we've bought a shedload...

  39. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

    So which is it?

    "hedge impenetrable: as soon as they penetrated"

    Come on Lewis, either the hedge is impenetrable, or it can be penetrated. Penetrating not very far still counts, for a pedantic grammar nazi.

  40. DS 1

    Greatest miscalculation

    Lewis and many others continue to spew idiocy about spend. The US spends X and the UK spends Y. And China spends W.

    The problem with this kind of 'intelligence' is that its flawed. If the average Chinese defense/sigint officer/ resource is only paid 1/10th of what a US work/officer/soldier gets, per Dollar the Chinese are leveraging ten times the resource per dollar. What this equates to is only a technological thin gap in ability. So you'll find it is true that this Stealth Fighter is not a match for the latest Generation of US fighters.

    But the chinese are going to be able to develop faster. Their next generations will be better, and they will be better resourced to do this.

    You see the same idiocy applied in terms of how much North Korea 'spends' on 'defense' than how much south korea spends. And the sums show S Korea spends more. But it fatally misses the point that the north will come with the bigger military by far if something takes place.

    China's spending figures should not be based on a base sum against what the US spends. It should be assessed in how many scientsists, specialists, industrialists, and industries are being used per dollar, and an examination of exactly how large this is per capita per dollar of spending. And only then compare the numbers.

    When the right form of calculation is made, the gap between the US and say China is a great deal smaller than one might assume on the surface.

    But beyond this, one has to also calculation the current state of China. We can throw away any pretence that it is some backward communist state. Its industries are today no longer merely just churning out the cheapest junk on the world market. Today its making every type of industrial product, from low end through to the highest levels of technology. Its education and political system is now geared and in place is is matching anything else in the world. Its science and its technology is if not on par racing towards being so, and in various ways people need to get switched on about this reality.

    Further, China is not an ally. Every single day its government is working at furthering its own state, and its infrastructure on stealing, signal intelligence, industrial intelligence and theft, and informational warefare is on a scale never before seen anywhere - ever. Its building its own prosperity and does not care how this is achieved. What they cannot develop or design they are and will steal. Current western reaction and posture is at least 10 years out of kilter, is wrong, and has a great deal of adjustment to make up to realign its focus.

  41. Jim Fenner

    China has the Greatest Research Labs in the World

    ... in the USA. Pumping out US trade and defence secrets (defense if you are reading this in the US) via fat pipes to a good home in China.

    Case in point - the Chinese had the plans for the neutron bomb within two years of the Yanks building one.

    Their need to invent is rather slim, all they need to do is adapt, reprint the manuals with new Copyright notices and start manufacturing in a hundred factories. And if the strategic mood is right, Japan might join in, so much for the sturdy ring of US allies.

    The West has no secrets - and we don't care.

    If the Chinese didn't "borrow" our technology, we'd sell it to them.

    We decided long ago not to live like Spartans now for the sake of a future in which we might need to fight a hot expensive war and sacrifice our sons for freedom. Freedom is now just a slogan in the West. Our armies are deputy sherrifs for Uncle Sam for keeping small countries in line and soon enough will be busy keeping our restive and factious populations in line. Especially those who bleat about freedom/jobs/anything really.

  42. bugalugs


    US interests* are likely a relevant factor to those concerned with the maintenance and extension of the PLA's hegemony**. Paint that, short-term, as no threat to the " West " ( Europe, Pacific, Atlantic ). PLA*** interests**** are presently manifest all over. A story-line might be deployment of " good-enough " fighters world-wide, as partners of the dominant paradigm. The citizenry of the US services debt to PLA, promotes said paradigm worldwide en lingua franca, generally prostrates itself, survives, delivers rest of world to PLA. PLA moves on to #2.

    * Apparently, anything that turns a buck, but go figure.

    ** That will be the Chinese Communist Party. A co-operative piss-up of long standing.

    *** People's Liberation Army. Of China. Not Taiwan.

    **** Whatever the CCP wants.

    Think I'll go make a cup of tea....

  43. bexley


    I remember when i was in the ATC as a kid, sometime in the mid 90's i went to RAF / USAF mildenhall for an airshow.

    They had the newish f117 on display but it still had a team of armed guards around it so that nobody could get within 50 meters of it for a closer look.

    This was after that aircraft had been deployed in the field.

    So for the Chinese to be parading this around a hundred meters from a busy road and allowing video to be taken and uploaded to youtube lends it's self to the idea that indeed this may well be a feint.

    While all eyes are in this potential export they could be developing something far more potent away from laughing chinese men with video camera's.

    Makes sense that they would be. It would be unusual at beat for a country like China to be so public in displaying it's new military technology.

    While this article is good, it misses this discussion / speculation point.

    I too doubt that China will need to engage the US in a shooting war anytime soon but as the US grow more and more desperate to retain their economic empire, the chances of the two meeting in combat over energy or trade is not all that slim in the next 50 years or so.

    America will fight for oil, we have seen that, will China?

    I for one hope that we dont get involved.

  44. arkhangelsk

    My review

    1-4) Explanatory, generally accurate.

    5) If the handwriting is not on the wall, I won't believe it mentality. The part about the engines is true (also for the PAK-FA), but the F-35's round nozzles have much the same problem.

    6) Lack of understanding about operational needs. The J-20 is a Pacific oriented design as opposed to F-22/PAK-FA's balanced design and JSF cost-saving, closer range design. Its defensive mission will be to patrol China's rather long borders. Its offensive mission will be to range deep over a lot of water. A tendency towards large-size/long-range is inevitable, which provides extra time on supercruise. The HMS actually equalizes maneuverability problems.

    7) More best-case only thinking - at best a procrastination mentality and at worse downright dangerous. Even if they don't have LPI, for that to work, the Asian powers must have Meteor even though they generally use US rather than European systems (the US isn't as enthusiastic about developing a long shooter b/c they are using supercruise as a booster), the J-20 doesn't have a long shooter of its own, the Meteor must be equipped with a passive homing head, and the J-20 pilots have no idea of EMCON. If anything, passive homers are more dangerous to planes with LPI (and trust that it works), for they are more likely to remain in continuous emission, and if the LPI doesn't live up to its promises they are f*cked.

    8) Between Japan, SK and Taiwan something approaching a chain may be argued in China's East "TVD." (certainly the Chinese think so). Even those generally lack IRSTs, since that is not a US priority. Nor do they have radars optimized to detect LO aircraft, same reason. In the South TVD are a bunch of countries that are so weak as to be best called "liabilities" in a major conflict. Australia has OTH radar supposedly with some anti-stealth but with JSFs it'll be hard for them to come far north enough to seriously threaten the Chinese without lots of US (tanker) support.

    The weakness of the "mobile Taiwans" is that they don't have the size and survivability of Taiwan. Runways can be repaired in hours, but not carriers. The radars of the Aegis only have raw-power and standard signal processing as anti-stealth measures (thus inefficient relative to dedicated anti-stealth radar).

    Page 2

    9) That means by the time they are detected, they are on tail intercepts. Against a large fighter with supercruising ability, this is highly disadvantageous.

    As for the seaborne cruise missiles, ultimately cruise missiles are *strike*, not sustained *combat* weapons like aircraft are - if the carriers are deterred/elimintated from the game throw-weight drops, not to mention defensive power - even an Aegis cruiser is relatively vulnerable to air threats if not backed by air cover.

    Also, the present generation of subsonic missiles have limited efficiency versus hardened aircraft shelters (low speed, relatively small warhead, profile disadvantageous for penetration...) Plus it ignores that China has its own cruise and ballistic missiles that can do the same to PACRIM airfields (or civilian targets), thus making countries more reluctant to support the US.

    10) Most of the US allies are in Europe, not Asia. And even there, if the JSF continues to bloat in price like it does, it is unlikely a thousand would be bought (once upon a time the US should have bought 750 F-22s too before rationalizing away themselves to 187). And even then, it is not clear whether this economy (like the Virginia, it actually isn't much if any cheaper) plane will actually have an advantageous combat coefficient vs the Chinse and Russian designs.

  45. Anonymous Coward

    International Stealth Fighter Variations

    USA Version - costs $40m a shot , now retired.

    Russian Version - costs R40m or a couple of bottles of Vodka, fancy swing wings.

    Chinese Version - costs a lot more than the Imperialist Yankee Version and is a monument to the glorious People's Liberation Army (noodles included).

    British Version - non existent - we can't afford 2 carriers let alone a stealth fighter.

    Oz Version - has dents in the underside from being parked in a 'Roo farm.

    North Korean Version - handmade by Kim Il-Sung himself but you're not allowed to see it - but it does exist .. honest!

  46. Volker Hett

    Dongfeng 21D is more interesting

    and the new subs they build.

    Those are a real threat to the carriers, add Chinas capability to shoot down satellites and we're in business.

  47. Garibaldi
    Thumb Up

    Typical anti chinese propaganda

    China has come a long way, and therefore deserve some respect for what they have accomplish.

    American stole German technology after WW2, and brought the rocket scientist to state to built a space program. Even with the backing of western allies they were still far behind Soviet Union.

    Also China is catching up to west in its own way. It is already a second largest economy. In fact it is buying up American bonds and debt to keep the world economy floating.

    Not bed for a nation that was only selling rice, making money through tourist.

  48. gimbal

    Cheers, El Reg

    Good show, 'mates

  49. scepticandy

    Spending is a bad mesure of military might

    Spending is a lousy mesure of military might nowadays. Most of that money goes to line the pockets of Halliburton, Lockeed & friends. Did you know the US army pays roughly 100$ to get a can of cock delivered to Afganisthan ?

    Reality check : The US army lost in Vietnam, it is loosing in Afganisthan, after officialy "winning" the Iraq war the fighting resumed and now Iraq is poised to become the new Iran.

    China has a HUGE population and can affort to loose millions of soldiers, It had technology and most importantly, it has money.

    If china stopped lending to the US the US would go bankrupt in a matter of months. A war would be very one sidded indeed.

  50. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD
    Paris Hilton

    How are they going to find each other in the first place?

    "One possible theorised effect of stealth design on air combat is that opposing stealth fighters – unable to lock each other up for long-range missile duels – would find themselves tackling one another in close-in dogfights using such tools as helmet-mounted sights and agile short-ranged missiles able to attack targets well off the launching fighter's line of flight."

    1. Caladain

      Stealth Vs Stealth

      Same way fighters found each other in WWII. Line of sight, "Tally" and so forth. At closer ranges, and with active scanned radar's hot, you should be able to get a return off of a the very least get enough of a heat return to fire a sidewinder. Push to shove, you could always switch to guns and duel, ala, vietnam (Phantoms vs Migs).

      This is assuming that passive radar returns are too weak at medium/long range to between the two stealth aircraft (on both sides) to allow a positive lockon for AMRAAM engagement.

  51. Anonymous Coward

    Something Lewis is Missing

    Lewis makes the point that the US are still outspending China on the military. But let's be clear. They are the only country that is. China has the second largest defence expenditure in the world. They are currently about 14% of the US in absolute terms. But the key part is that in percentage of GDP terms America spends over 3 times the Chinese. The US are spending almost 5% of GDP on defence, and China is spending only 1.4% of GDP. Why is this interesting. Well, the Chinese economy is growing very rapidly, the US economy isn't. Give it 10 years and China's GDP will exceed that of the US. At which point China can do to the US what the US did to Russia at the end of the cold war (or even what Germany did to Britain post Dreadnought). They could easily double or triple defence expenditure, and force the US to either do the same, or lose it's place as top dog.

    Just think, at the moment, a single US carrier battle group can deal with the vast majority of countries forces. 3 or 4 carrier battle groups could deal with any countries air force (albeit with some losses in the extreme cases). The US can play top dog and never even commit half it's forces doing so. What will the US do when they can no longer play that game? It will start to get interesting then that's for sure.

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