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  • J-20: Not Effectively Operational Before 2018, U.S. Says
    Posted by Robert Wall 7:09 AM on Aug 25, 2011

    In its first report to Congress on China's military capability since the first flight of the J-20, the Pentagon says it "does not expect the J-20 to achieve an effective operational capability prior to 2018."

    That does not mean the U.S. Defense Department shrugs off the development entirely. "The appearance of this prototype underscores the level of [Chinese] investment in advanced defense systems," the report states.

    The Pentagon sees "several hurdles" before the J-20 enters production, but names only one challenge: "the mastery of high-performance jet engine production."

    In many respects the J-20 timeline is impressive, though, especially compared to the Pentagon's own development timelines or that of other western programs.

    If you assume the J-20 is merely an early prototype, achieving an in-service capability within seven years is much faster than anything the Pentagon could deliver.

    The F-22's prototype, the YF-22, first flew in 1990, but the system was not fielded until 2005. If the Pentagon's J-20 projection holds, the Chinese program also would beat the U.S. Air Force program even if you use the 1997 F-22 first flight date.

    The Eurofighter Typhoon is another example: first flight (of DA1) in 1994; Italy declares initial operational capability in 2005, the first operator to do so. The story for Rafale is no different.

    The real race is on between the J-20 and the Russian T-50 (PAK-FA). The T-50 first flew in early 2010 and Russia wants the system to be fielded in 2014.

    Tags: ar99, J-20, PLAAF, tacair

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