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China’s J-20 stealthy prototype “is at the heavy end of the fighter scale, leaving ample room for medium and light platforms” as follow-on stealth designs to issue from Beijing’s aerospace industry, says Douglas Barrie, senior fellow at The International Institute for Strategic Studies.These follow-on aircraft may also be the vehicles for developing more all-aspect low observability.He notes that the J-20 appears optimized for stealth in the forward sector which would provide an advantage for beyond-visual-range air-to-air engagement or engaging surface targets with standoff weapons. The Chinese aircraft sports two lateral divertless supersonic intakes that includes a fixed-configuration bump to deal with air-flow rather than movable ramps or doors. The DSI approach is used by the F-35 and has been test-flown on China’s J-10 and may provide a radar-signature reduction benefit. Because China’s J-20 resembles MiG’s abandoned 1.42 stealth project, Barrie suggests that Moscow may have proceeded with its T-50 design after sharing the earlier MiG stealth data with China.However, the Chinese may be embracing stealth fighters just as the technology is shifting to another part of the combat spectrum.While the Chinese J-20 and Russian T-50 stealth strike fighter projects may offer a challenge for air dominance in the future, Western forces, led by the Pentagon, have chosen another path for its future force. They are investing heavily in unmanned combat aerial vehicles while neglecting the development of crewed, next-generation combat aircraft, Barrie says in his new study: “China’s J-20: future rival for air dominance?”
ar99, China, stealth, MiG1.42
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