Chinese AF making stealth gains on US

The Chinese military rolled out their newest stealth fighter, the J-31, with new pictures appearing on government media outlets to coincide with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s visit.

The Chinese media ploy caught the attention of Air Force Gen. Herbert Carlisle, commander of U.S. Pacific Air Forces. He said Wednesday at the Air Force Association annual conference that the U.S. is still way ahead of the Chinese in respect to stealth jet fighters, but the Chinese are catching up.

“The [People’s Republic of China] with respect to stealth capability, they are behind us, but they will develop and they will get better, and we certainly can’t rest on our position,” Carlisle said.

It’s striking how similar the J-31 to the U.S. F-22 and even the F-35, in some regards. However, as John Reed with Foreign Policy notes, “simply having a stealthy shape does not mean the Chinese planes are truly stealth planes. Modern stealth aircraft involves the sues of special radar absorbent coatings, along with heat and electronic signature masking technology.”

Carlisle pointed out that the U.S. still has a considerable lead in the development of stealth aircraft. The F-35 program has faced considerable roadblocks and the F-22 fleet was slashed from what Air Force leaders had wanted, but the U.S. still has fifth generation fighters in the fleet.

He warned the Air Force can’t afford to rest on their laurels.

“I think whatever advantages we have technologically will still be there, but they won’t last as long,” Carlisle said.

The focus on aviation stealth has taken a ten year sabbatical as the military has had little use for a stealth fighter jet when fighting enemies without much of an air force to speak of, let alone a significant air defense network. The F-22 has yet to fly a combat mission.

The pivot to the Pacific outlined in President Obama’s new defense strategy will force Pentagon leaders to re-evaluate their stealth capabilities. Commanders will not have the relative freedom to move assets in the air without fear of reprisal over countries like China or North Korea.

The PACAF commander urged the nation to maintain investments to develop stealth technology. Facing the threat of significant cuts to planned defense spending in future years, modernization accounts will get slashed and stealth development could be put on the back burner. Carlisle said this is unacceptable.

Defense industry leaders hope the Air Force’s renewed push for a next generation long range bomber will refocus research efforts on advancing stealth technology.

Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter also hinted at the possibility of further research on stealth drones. He said Wednesday the Pentagon is planning on making investments into drone technology that can operate in contested environments.

54 Comments on "Chinese AF making stealth gains on US"

  1. Fortunately it takes China 3 decades to develop new fighters, which is waaaay longer than it takes us. Oh wait, it's just the opposite. Oh, that's bad.

    But let's not change anything. Let's not get all upset and go changing things back to the way they were when we had new airplanes rolling out 2 and 3 a year. No, those were the bad old days. Just ask any defense contractor. They'll tell you.

  2. Lockheed seriously screwed up if they allowed China to get access to the F-35's technology. Obviously the avionics and materials of the aircraft matter and until that's public knowledge we'll need to wait and see just how stealthy this Chinese knockoff truely is.

  3. I've heard so many different experts with opposing viewpoints on the f-35. It seems to me that the big problem that is mentioned is that it does not have a good range. If our carriers have to get close to a warzone to launch them then that puts the carriers at risk. I do like the fact that it has the best jammer in the world on it. When a dogfight happens, the strategy will be to have the lead F-35's jamming the enemy squadrons while the other 6 lock on and take the enemy out. I'd like to see the F-35 brain inside the F-22's body however. Also, the chinese stealth Jet has canards which ruin stealth.

  4. One word: Drones.
    They don't need oxygen. They can as much g-force as the airframe allows. If they get shot down, open another crate!

    F-22 costs $200mil, carries 16 missiles max internal and external. What's to stop a hostile nation with decent technological and manufacturing capabilities from sending up 18-19 drones at $10mil a copy, armed with AAMs, for every single F-22?

  5. The F-35 is outmatched, but we will do nothing about it.

  6. Far East war.

  7. Big surprise, a US official visits and they roll out another tacair platform. The chicken littles run around wailing about the falling sky. The Chinese want us spending ridiculous money on tacair options because those are options they might be able to fight back against. The last thing they want to see is the US shift procurement priorities to large #s of TLAMs, JASSMs, VA class subs and a new bomber, because those are options they will have a pickle of a time doing anything about.

  8. The US does not have a tech problem, but it does have a procurement/integration and testing problem. It takes too long, too expensive, and then not enough procured to really matter for a modern opponent.

  9. One aspect at least i hope we never lose is are training, were way ahead on that for sure, that just makes any machine more lethal.

  10. The great Jessmo | September 20, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Reply

    1. Rafaels did 1st day strikes on Libyan IADS?
    I seem to recall the French flying over rebel fighters and steering cleat of Tripoli.
    2. The Issue with using only cruise missiles is the limited inventory and non ability to hit moving targets and bunkers. H

  11. The great Jessmo | September 20, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Reply

    3. Drones cost just as much money to operate as manned fighters. The have a large logistics tail, and require hi end networks. Further more drones are jammable.
    ,4. At the end of the day a guy has to fly over that bunker or air fiel and bomb it.
    5. The F -35 had more range than the F22,F15,and F18 on internal fuel.

  12. I guess the Chinese AF would be making stealth gains on US, considering they've stole all the secrets & technology!!
    Small wonder!!

  13. China is playing right into the hands of the air force. they want a fleet of new bombers and high end aircraft to fight an imaginary enemy.

    and to be certain the marines are THRILLED to have what they consider to be 'their' mission.

    Sorry but a massive expansion of the military is exactly what we do not need after more than ten years of conflict.

    Lets build some schools, hospitals, repair some roads and maybe secure our southern border.

    four billion dollar a copy flying dreadnaughts are about as useful as last century's floating type.

  14. Nice copy China! It's a wonder China doesn't lead the world in copy machine tech.

  15. -If you guys keep stirring a useless pot, all you will do is become useless. derp

    A.) The J-31 is the size of the F-35, except it has two engines.

    B.)The basic air-frame in the front section is in fact almost identical to that of an F-35.

    C.) The engines seem to be a recycle of the Jf-17's engine.

    D.) Can the Chinese produce the same RADAR absorbent paint that the U.S. does?

    E.)Does the aircraft possess vectored-thrust like an F-22?

    F.)Can the J-31 hold a 60 degree AoA?

    -Answer to all… most likely not.

  16. Copy or not, it would be a bad thing if they started production and augmented their already large list of aircraft.

  17. The chinese did get a good look at that stealth drone the iranians stole… no doubt they can reverse engineer paint.

  18. Who cares…. In other news we have the best pilots in the world!

  19. Could an AWACS with a friggin huge IRST destroy the concept of stealth ? Just data link the results to your fighters and bye bye stealth advantage.

  20. Hold your horses comrades, Chinese propaganda is all this is-their so called carrier came from Russia, subs came from Russia,tanks-you tell me for both those countries which never sat foot on the moon suddenly have the technology for advance military tech.they are nowhere near our military capability.With our shortcoming on stealth technology to perfect it, I'll be worried if they suddenly show up with B-2 bomber knock off, till then sleep tight comrades.

  21. I know.
    Let's have a war with the PRC.
    Then, we will really know who has the best fighter.

  22. All you arm chair aircraft company CEO's and members of the Joint Chiefs are funny. The US is by far the most powerful force in the world….and its always been "he who controls the oceans controls the world"… takes the 17 countries to match the US Navy, and with the advent of the 35's and 22's plus whatever they have in the works at the skunkworks will keep the US far in the lead until our grandkids collect Social Security….c'mon guys….stop cuttin' down the US and have a little faith the rich wont allow anything less….

  23. Some day in the future, at some airshow, F-22 and F-35 in static display, beside them, the J-20 and J-31. Wonder when and where that could be?


    Well, I guess we can confirm that this is true.

  25. John Reed with Foreign Policy claims “simply having a stealthy shape does not mean the Chinese planes are truly stealth planes".

    Well, neither does the F-35, because the aircraft simply has partial stealthy shape only in the front fuselage area, except from behind the fuselage, the upper side and from the lower sides which means the F-35 is quite detectable by the 55Zh6M Nebo M "Counter Stealth Radar", L-Band AESA and other extremely powerful radars to detect LO/VLO aircraft. And in fact the exhaust nozzle of the F-135-PW-100 engine will be extremely hot when the aircraft is in full afterburner which attracts heat seaking AAMs and advanced SAMs.

  26. Let's wake up and smell the egg rolls …

    If we don't stop these Red Chinese Punks from stealing our technology …

    We're DEAD.

    On the bright side – I'm sure this makes OBAMA and his State Department happy.

  27. Pak-FA… all i have to say for now

  28. This thing is far from stealthy… look at those burners!

  29. Look like one of ours don't it? They probably took a picture of it and went from there. Sounds familiar?…or somebody sold it to them……….

  30. Patrick J. Busche | September 21, 2012 at 9:35 am | Reply

    I wonder how much of Mitt Romney's outsourcing of American jobs to China has contributed to funding China's defense program for these fighter aircraft?

  31. There is no Chinese stealth fighter. If they had one, they're military and state controlled media would not be the ones feeding you all the information about it. Like the pictures. This, the carrier, the supposed AEGIS ships are all the biggest head fake since the First US Army Group in 1944.

  32. Lockheed Martin's new marketing campaign: We supply the US warfighter with state of the art jets, and we also supply the China warfighter with state of the art jets. If the two most powerful nations use our products, so should you.

    No doubt the China spies working inside LM along with their cyber attacks are starting pay off.

  33. The more and more I hear negatives on the F35, I fall into the category of the Super Hornet and Silent Eagle supporters. While we just upgrade or buy Silent Eagles/Super Hornets, we should restart the F22 with money saved from cutting F35. Lockheed can continue to develop F35 on their own dime since we have funded the majority of development and they will be able to export it. In the future, if the technology actually matures and becomes useful and reliable, then we could consider buying them. Right now, as always, the private sector is using the DoD to force technoligical maturity so they can then turn and use it in some other form for profit. I dont blame them, its what everyone does if there is a buck to be made from the government. It has even brought on great things but has also led to a lot of money and time wasting that wouldnt have happened if companies were doing it on their own dime to begin with.

  34. A seriuos post today. "Electronic signature masking technology" stand for?. Something like a "Active noise control" system tuned to work with electromagnetic waves? Or what?. [Be sure to add a comment about my Inglish].

  35. The great jessmo | September 21, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Reply

    Has anyone realized the positives from this for Lockheed? If its true that this plane is a naval fighter then I can see future orders of F-35Bs and Cs for japan and India.
    The Chinese are going to fuel F-35 orders like it or not. navalized Mig-29s rafales, and tejas wont cut it anymore.

  36. Isn’t it more costly to develop and deploy stealth aircraft than it is to build AESA/passive radar systems? It seems like the Chinese are pouring money into a potentially dying concept if they aren’t coupling it with a strong EW capability.

  37. At least we have some sort of competition which is hardly any.


  39. That's cute, what plane are they going to build a mock up of next? YF-23? F-117? X-32?

  40. "John Reed with Foreign Policy notes, “simply having a stealthy shape does not mean the Chinese planes are truly stealth planes."

    Uh yeah, moron, it pretty much does. What a f'ing idiot.

  41. If some conflict arose between the US and the Chi-coms it would most assuredly be bloody, you can never underestimate an opponent. Sure the Chi-coms would score a few victories, but in the end couldnt hang in long enough. The things in the skunkworks now that we all have no clue about that are most likely ready or very close to ready has our backs. The Chinese Navy pales in comparison, it takes something like the next 20 countries to match the US Navy's capability. Chi-coms fighters cant even come to grips with F-4 Phantoms let alone 15's, 16's and 18's…..I'm not worried a bit…

  42. These whole debates ignore so many factors.

    What success rate for an Asraam kill ??
    The effects of ECM on Asraam ?
    The effects of being hugely outnumbered on f22 tactics
    The effects of IRST ?
    The ability of the Chinese to just launch hundreds upon hundreds of long range heat seeking missiles in the general direction of f22s/JSF and mess up their tactics ?

    Loiter times for JSF/F22 and their tankers huge unstealthy prescence.

    It seems the F22 and JSF aerial dominance relies on all the above working out in their favour. The doctrine is flawed , stealth as many senior US admirals are saying is being undermined by sensors in other em spectrums .

    The USAF and Lockheed have sold the Pentagon two crocked jets that in these reduced numbers will not give dominate the airspace, the bang for buck is criminal !!!

  43. Stealth is over rated. Even now improvements in radar processeing and multi-sensor systems are making stealth an expensive and marginally useful technology. The key in aerial warfare is and always has been the competency of the aircrew.

  44. It would be interesting to see how the Aim-9X block II or AIM-120D will perform against these new Chinese stealth aircraft.

  45. Warfare isn't about matchups plane versus plane. Too many here are forgetting this. Tactics and finding weak points in the defense lines in a major country on country conflict.

    Be more concerned if they build a 25 mil man airforce.

    Seems to me stealth is overrated if our weather radars can pick up hail.

    Optical scopes can pick up objects in our sky for long ranges.

    At night it becomes harder as IR range maybe shorter but seems our satellites could detect aircraft by sound.

    Also countered by more anti-aircraft on our ships, bases & defense points between our countries.

  46. I wI would just want to know how they got so many advances so quickly after Obama Kowtowed to them?ould just wnat to know how they got so many advances so quickley after Obama Kowtowed

  47. Has anyone thought of the idea of kamikaze drones?

    Imagine a fast, small, highly maneuverable drone that's program to hit or blow up (proximity fuzed) other fighters. It's would be much like a missile except very smart. Where a missile can be spoofed, jammed or dodged, a hunter killer pack of 7 or 8 drones that link with each other would prove very dangerous because they would keep attacking

    It could out maneuver any manned aircraft and it would have persistence-unlike a missile. It have radar, infrared, and other forms of guidance and it would be intelligent enough to pick and choose targets. If the pack of drones is linked together they would form a coordinated attack, i.e. if the first drone missed or was shot down the other drones would be in pace for the kill. It would be nearly impossible to escape this pack

    I sure the bad guys would trade a couple of million dollar smart autonomous drones for a single F-22 any day

  48. Lets consider some possible China Stealth scenarios.

    Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and/or USA are their only few potential adversaries.

    Unless rest of world helps, we cannot defend or reliberate Taiwan for sure. China could opt to just destroy it completely.

    In a Korea conflict how effective can stealth be with mass dogfights & warships everywhere.

    Against Japan or US, they would have to nuke to be able to destroy anything significant enough with Stealth.

    My curiosity is does Stealth cause loss in speed, armor maneuverability or range of the craft? What about the heat signature?

    If no real difference, then more worry that China builds an entire airforce of Stealth. And we should already be doing the same. Stealth anything that doesn't need thick armor.

  49. Open up the F-22 production line and build about 300 more fighters, we don't have time to keep playing around with the F-35. The F-22 would have been a lot cheaper per copy to produce than the F-35, but the cost escalated due to limited production, ie. B-2 bomber syndrome. With the way our technology is stolen, only a fool would have thought we had a 10 to 12 year advantage in stealth.

  50. Can the F-22 ,land on a carrier, take off vertical or carry a 2kLb stealthy load?

  51. Stop be delusional like Harry Potter.

    China is coming.

  52. Oooh…….weeee… All the Chinese or the American arms suppliers got to do is put out some pictures and stories about the bogeyman's "latest advance" in weaponry, real or imaginary, is enough to make the government open up the wallets to put more money into weapon development and procurement, at outrageous prices. The taxpayers are the suckers.

  53. The motto of House Stark is now…China is coming.

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