Chengdu j-21 Black Dragon
Chinese Stealth Fighter
J-X / J-XX / XXJ
J-12 / J-13 / J-14 / J-20
(Jianjiji - Fighter aircraft)
There is general agreement in the open literature that China is working on some type of stealthy fighter attack aircraft, and that this program has been underway since the turn of the century. There is very little agreement beyond these basic points. Available treatments of this subject in print and online seem to represent little more than a confusing jumble of informed speculation, wild guesstimates, and active disinformation. The Chinse government is under no obligation to set the record straight, and indeed has every incentive to add to the general confusion.
Russia and India are jointly developing the Sukhoi PAK FA / T-50 , which first flew in January 2010. In June 2001, India was offered 'joint development and production' of this new 5th generation fighter by Russia. Russia had been trying to sell this concept both to China and India for some time. It seems probable that China declined to participate in this project given a belief that Russia stood to gain more from Chinese participation than did China. That is, it would seem that China had determined that it could produce a superior product without Russian help. With the first flight of the Russian stealth fighter in 2010, an arguably superior Chinese steath fighter might be expected to take to the skies not too long thereafter.
A 2006 article in Military Technology referred to three designs; Shenyang J-12 and Shenyang J-14 by 601 Institute Shenyang Aircraft Corporation [SAC] and Chengdu J-13 by 611 Institute Chengdu Aircraft Corporation [CAC]. The report in Military Technology featured a picture of a completely different design, speculatively dubbed J-14 and said to be a Shenyang project, with the designations J-12 and J-13 being applied to (possibly competing) designs by Shenyang and Chengdu respectively.
Shenyang Airplane Corporation (SAC) is in charge of the large, twin-engine J-8 fighters in service with the PLAAF (People's Liberation Army Air Force) as well as of licence production of the Su-27SK under the local designation of J-11. The other study group is the 611 Institute from Chengdu Airplane Corporation (CAC).
By January 2007 Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) and Chengdu Aircraft Industry Co. (CAC), China’s two major fighter aircraft enterprises, were both reportedly working on advanced fighter designs slated to enter the PLAAF service as soon as 2015. Chengdu was focused on an enlarged twin-engine, 4th generation stealthy version of the J-10 fighter, possibly designated J-13. Shenyang was said to be focused on an entirely new 5th generation F-22-class stealth fighter, possibly designated the J-12. Both projects were believed to have benefited from Russian technologies.
The Chinese aviation industry reportedly began preliminary research for China’s 4th generation fighter program in the mid-1990s. The new aircraft - tentatively dubbed the J-X and possibly to receive the service designation J-13A - could use the WS10A turbofan engine designed by the Shenyang Liming Motor Company during its development and trials process. In development for more than a decade, the WS10-series power plant completed air trials earlier this year with an Su-27SK (NATO reporting name: 'Flanker-B') fighter. The WS10A is scheduled for introduction with the PLAAF's J-10A fighter. Continuing research into advanced control techniques is expected to in time allow the air force to field WS10A-powered J-10A and J-X fighters equipped with thrust-vectoring nozzles offering improved aircraft manoeuvrability.
In August 2008 it was reported that 611 Institute was selected to be the main contractor for the development of the fifth-generation stealthy J-20, and that 601 Institute was the sub-contractor. It was rumored that 611 Institute has started to issue manufacturing drawings for constructing the first prototype, which is expected to fly by 2012, even though the full configuration one won't fly until a few years later. The latest rumor suggested that a full-scale mock-up had been built at CAC.
In 1998 the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) reported that an advanced F-22-class twin-engine stealth fighter known as J-12 was under development at Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC). In 2002, Jane's Defence Weekly reported that Shenyang Aircraft Corporation had been selected to head research and development of a new fighter. In 2003 an online photo showed a wind tunnel test fighter mockup some claimed as linked to the J-12 project. Reports suggested that the fighter would be fitted with an internal weapon bay and possibly active phased array radar.
Besides carrying on with the improvement of the J-8 series and the licensed production of the Su-27, the Shenyang Aircraft Company (SAC) 601 Institute has engaged in preliminary research for the "No. 12" project for the development of the Chinese Air Force's main fighter aircraft for the 21st century. Also known as the "XXJ," this fifth generation PLAAF fighter, is currently projected to enter service in the 2013-2015 timeframe. The aircraft is projected to have a crew of two, is anticipated to be in same class as US F-22 fighter, probably based on significant Russian technical assistance.
By 2002 there were reports that China is developing a new stealthy fighter jet aircraft and many of the design concepts and components had already been created. This is the first Eastern rival to the West’s F/A-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to go into development. [Janes -- “China Reveals New Stealth Fighter Project,” 12/11/02]. At this time, the Russian Sukhoi Company (JSC), which had developed close ties with Shenyang over the licensed co-production of its Su-27SK fighter as J-11, was reported working with Shenyang in developing the next-generation fighter technology and sub-systems. Although Russia had not yet developed an operational stealth fighter, the J-12 project may benefit from its technologies in two areas: thrust vectoring engine and stealth design. China may also seek potential partners from Russia, Israel and Europe to co-develop avionics and weapon suites for its 4th-generation fighter aircraft.
By late 2002 the Shenyang Aircraft Company was reported to have been selected to head research and development of a new heavyweight fighter for China's People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). Development of the engines and weapon subsystems for the fourth-generation fighter had been under way for some time, with a number of design concepts having been created. These include a twin-engine aircraft sharing some design traits with Lockheed Martin's stealthy F/A-22 multirole fighter, such as the internal carriage of its weapon systems. The Chinese designs retain a more conventional wing, however, and use a single vertical tail fin.
The Shenyang proposal was for a twin engine, single seat 15-tonne class heavy fighter, similar to the US F-22 Raptor but featureing canards. At least four different configurations were evaluted before the definitive "New 93" layout was arrived at. Stealth technology was said to be a prominent design feature, with an RCS of about 0.5 square metres beening mentioned. Thrust vectoring technology was said to make the aircraft more agile than the Su-27, in a powerplant with greater than 8000kg thrust.
Considering China’s records in combat aircraft development, a project like the J-12 may prove challenging. It will involves technology advancement in a number of fields including materials, high-performance aviation engine, electronics, flight control software, and stealth technologies. A project of this scale will also require huge amount of investment and considerable knowledge of complex project and manufacturing management. While China may be able to benefit from some “off-the-shelf” dual-use technologies available in the commercial market, it will almost definitely seek assistance from its traditional military technology suppliers such as Russia and Israel. However, none of these two countries possess the experience of developing an advance fighter of this class.
Brigadier Govinda M. Nair wrote in 2005 that "A stealth fighter, XXJ, equivalent to the US F-22 is likely to be inducted by 2015." According to the PLA's Deputy Commander He Weirong, the Chinese fifth generation fighter was expected to be in service with the PLAAF by 2017-2019. In August 2008, a RAND study raised questions about the ability of US tactical aircraft, including the F-22, to counter large numbers of Chinese aircraft in a Taiwan Strait scenario. Though at that time the F-22 was assumed to be able to shoot down 48 Chinese Flankers when outnumbered 12:1 without loss, this did not take into account less-than-perfect US beyond-visual-range performance, or possible deployment of a new Chinese stealth fighter around 2020 or 2025.
In a speech delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates (Economic Club of Chicago, 16 July 2009), he stated "by 2020, the United States is projected to have nearly 2,500 manned combat aircraft of all kinds. Of those, nearly 1,100 will be the most advanced fifth generation F-35s and F-22s. China, by contrast, is projected to have no fifth generation aircraft by 2020. And by 2025, the gap only widens. The U.S. will have approximately 1,700 of the most advanced fifth generation fighters versus a handful of comparable aircraft for the Chinese..."
In 2006 the respected journal Military Technology reported ["China Develops Stealth Fighter" Vol.30, Iss. 2; pg. 44, 3 pgs] that China was developing new "stealth" fighter, under a program variously referred to as XXJ, J-X, or J-XX by Western intelligence sources, apparently designated as J-14. The first "picture" recently become available, though the authenticity of the image was quickly challenged. The aircraft in the photo looked at first sight as a complete prototype, but was said to be a very detailed full-scale engineering mock-up. It can be speculated that, after having been used to study the aircraft's internal installations, the mock-up has also received an external finish for presentation purposes. Its real function at this point, however, was probably to assist in the definition of the required logistic support (i.e., access to the various avionics boxes and on-board systems, ground support equipment like the various ladders and the external power source units, air conditioning units and so on) as well as to study the engines' removal/installation procedures.
According to this report, it is however still not clear whether the designation of J-14 is intended to suggest a successor design to both the J-12 and the J-13, and whether the existence of the J-14 engineering mock-up (clearly based on the J-12) indicated that the type has been selected for development, or the competition was still going on with parallel activities underway on another such mock-up based on the J-13.
The general configuration of the aircraft ws clearly from CAC's experience in developing the J-10, with its canard layout and ventral air intake. But while the J-10 is known to be related to the Israeli LAVI, this new and much more ambitious design appeared to have a relationship with the ill-fated Russian 5th generation fighter of the 1990s, the MiG 1.44 MFI. While the overall aerodynamic configuration of the J-14 followed that of the MiG 1.44 demonstrator, a canard configuration is hardly the ideal solution from the point of view of a reduced radar signature. A radical redesign had been implemented for a significant reduction in the radar cross-section value. In particular, the aircraft incorporates a pronounced wing-body blending, which was totally lacking in the original Russian design.
By early 2009 there were reports that the J-14 next generation fighter appeared to have been rejected in favour of Chengdu's J-13 design, and to have lost out to SAC’s more realistic approach to develop a Flanker-derived type.