Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Indian source: China ready with its own stealth fighter jet

Interesting view from Indian newspaper:

China is ready with its version of an operational stealth fighter jet and is set to induct the first lot anytime soon. The stealth fighter will put additional pressure on India in its defence preparedness plans as its neighbour races ahead in ramping up its air fleet, Army equipment, missiles and naval warships besides critical infrastructure like railways and road network.

China’s first lot of 24 stealth fighters is ready for induction, Indian security agencies have informed the government. The Chinese have named the fighter J-16, not to be confused with the under development fifth generation stealth fighter Chengdu J-20. However, unlike the Chengdu J-20, the J-16 is based on tried and tested platform of the Russian origin Sukhoi-30-MK2.

Though the Sukhoi-30 design is not ideal for stealth technology, the Chinese engineers have reportedly tweaked the wings and brought them more in line to provide it stealth, preventing enemy radars from picking it up to launch a counter-offensive, sources told The Tribune.

Beijing has named the J-16 as an ‘intermediate stealth fighter’ that will fill in till the originally planned fifth generation J-20 is inducted in 2017. Due to its size and weight, the J-20, probably, according to analysts, needs a set of newer, more powerful engines than the existing AL-31 engines borrowed from the Russian Sukhoi 27. Till then, as the J-20 develops, China has virtually changed the game in relation to India by developing the J-16 to meet its immediate needs. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) of China was the first to show interest in the J-16. The Shenyang-based factory producing the plane has been asked to produce these with capability to fire anti-ship missiles, sources said.

The indication of the PLAN showing an interest is being keenly observed as the Sukhoi — on which the J-16 is based — can fly for long distances. India and China are competing to emerge as dominant navies in the region while the US has just announced its policy to shift focus to the Asia-Pacific region. India is co-designing and co-producing with Russia a fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) with stealth technology under a $35 billion programme. The plane code named PAK FA T-50 is being regularly test flown at KnAAPO’s airfield in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Russia. It is powered by Russian-origin AL-41-A engine which is much more powerful and some 150 kg lighter than the AL 31, powering the Chinese aircraft the J-20. However, the Indo-Russian fighter is unlikely to be inducted till 2017.

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