After a few weeks and the apparent first test flight of the J-20, some of the initial “drama” is settling down. I am loathe to say that the initial analysis was “alarmist” or “sensationalist” but time does allow one to step back and consider factors that may not have been recognized in the initial euphoria/fear reaction.
Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson over at China Signpost have taken those few moments and reconsidered the J-20. Their analysis can be found here. Read it all. For you lazy ones who like previews, here are the key judgments:
–China’s J-20 fighter has the potential to be a formidable air combat system in the Asia-Pacific region, but a number of technical hurdles will need to be overcome before mass production can commence.
–Key technical capabilities that we await demonstration of are thrust vectoring, sensor fusion, active electronically scanned radars, and a higher level of tanker and AWACS support. Operating a low-observable aircraft also requires major maintenance inputs.
–The Chinese aerospace industry is making rapid technical progress, but the ability to build late-generation, supercruise-capable engines issue in particular will be a key bottleneck that helps decide the J-20’s initial operational capability (IOC) date as a true stealth platform.