- China’s Air Force is rapidly expanding in size and capability with the addition of advanced jets like the J-20.
- The J-20 is not “the kind that loses a lot of sleep,” the secretary of the U.S. Pacific Air Forces said this week.
- But U.S. Air Force leaders say the U.S. must work to stay ahead of China’s progress.
China’s rapidly expanding fighter fleet has alarmed rivals, but its newest jet, the J-20, is less of a concern, the chief of the U.S. Air Force for the Pacific said this week.
“It’s their most modern aircraft. Speaking at the Aviation, Space and Cyber Conference at National Harbor. Maryland.
The J-20 is China’s first fifth-generation fighter, introduced in 2017. Like other Chinese military aircraft, it faces technical challenges, including underpowered engines.
But Beijing continues to develop the jet, planning to add better engines and sending it into long-range operations.
“You don’t lose a lot of sleep, but they look like a lot of buildings,” Wilsbach told reporters.
The J-20 and FC-31 are fifth-generation fighters, in development and possibly carrier-based, that will augment China’s Air Force’s fourth-generation fleet and “strengthen its air-to-air capabilities.” . The Pentagon said in its latest report on the Chinese military:
The two aircraft “have advanced maneuverability, stealth characteristics, and an internal arsenal, as well as advanced avionics and sensors that provide enhanced situational awareness, advanced radar tracking and targeting capabilities, and integrated was done [electronic warfare] system,” the report added.
A senior official at the state-owned company developing the J-20 said in April that the J-20 regularly patrols the East and South China Seas, including combat patrols that require a higher level of preparedness. He said he was.
The military’s official newspaper, the People’s Liberation Army Daily, reported in August that J-20s had repeatedly scrambled in response to foreign aircraft entering China’s East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone.
Wilsbach said in March that it was too early to tell whether China would use the J-20 as a multirole fighter or focus on air superiority.
But Chinese pilots appeared to be flying the J-20 “pretty well,” and US pilots were “relatively impressed” by the Chinese command and control of the J-20 they encountered in the East China Sea, Wills said. Bach said at the time.
“We learned a lot from that involvement,” Wilsbach said on Monday. “Frankly, don’t worry too much.”
Asked about the J-20 on Tuesday, Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Brown Jr., the Pacific Air Force’s predecessor to Wilsbach, agreed with Wilsbach but said China’s Air Force’s progress was noteworthy. .
“I don’t need much sleep, but I’m going to pay attention,” Brown said of the J-20. “I can look at it today and say I’m not going to lose a lot of sleep. Unless we continue to modernize the Air Force and make sure we stay ahead of where we are now, I’m going to lose sleep.” I guess.”
The Chinese Air Force is believed to have dozens of J-20s, and the Pentagon says it has “a limited number of operationally deployed jets” – 186 in the U.S. Air Force. That’s less than the F-22s in 2000 and the F-35As, which number about 300.
The Air Force continues to grapple with several elements of the F-35 program, including a new set of software and weapons upgrades.
We also want to start selling our oldest F-22s to save money that can be invested in developing a 6th generation fighter, a program known as Next Generation Air Dominance.
“When I think about the enemy’s fifth-generation capabilities as an Air Force, I also think about it as we move down the path of next-generation aviation dominance,” Brown told reporters on Tuesday. We want to make sure we keep our advantage and that’s the aspect that I’m trying to focus on as service chief, to keep modernizing so that we don’t lose sleep and make sure we bring that capability. ”
Sixth generation aircraft are still largely conceptual. It’s not expected to arrive until at least 2030, and we know very little about its capabilities.
China’s top aircraft designer has said “preliminary studies” of sixth-generation jets began in 2019, and there is no discussion of their relevance, Gen. Mike Kelly said at a conference on Wednesday. rice field.
Kelly, who oversees the training of U.S. fighter pilots as chief of the Air Combat Command, describes China’s fifth and sixth generation jet development as a “growing threat.”
Kelly told reporters that Chinese designers have evolved from relying on the old Russian-designed Sukhoi jets to more advanced foreign and domestically developed models, closing the technology gap between aircraft generations. said it adopted an iterative approach that allowed it to fill in
“That’s how their fourth generation did it. They started with the Su-27, morphed into the Su-30, [built] It developed its own J-16 and acquired the Su-35 in 2016, Kelly said. , 5th generation speed. ”
That approach “makes it a little easier for them,” Kelly said, adding that he expects further progress. said.
Despite China’s technological advances, China’s armed forces are still not battle-tested and are believed to lack the experience and autonomy that Wilsbach said distinguishes U.S. pilots. I’m here.
“Our troops are very well trained. They are very well equipped. It’s an airman’s ability to command at level,” Wilsbach told reporters on Monday.
“I’m comfortable sending F-22 and F-35 pilots as lieutenants. They know how to do it,” Wilsbach added. “I actually fly with them, so I have first-hand knowledge.”