China’s Chengdu J-20, a fifth-generation stealth fighter jet, has officially entered combat service. The jet is part of the nation’s commitment to modernize its military operations. It was designed for stealth and manoeuvrability. Many have compared it America’s Lockheed Martin F-35, which the US President himself has criticized for being too expensive.
China’s premier Xi Jinping during the most recent party Congress said that the nation will continue building and strengthening its military might. So far it is the largest military. However, Jinping’s has envisioned the most powerful military in the world. He said it would promote national defense and military modernization, including “a modern army, navy, air force, rocket army, and strategic support force, and a strong and efficient command agency for joint operations.” He added, “A military is prepared for war. All military works must adhere to the standards of being able to fight a war and win a war. Our army is the people’s army; our defense is national defense. [We must] enhance the education on national defense education, consolidate the unity between the military and civilian, in order to achieve the Chinese dream of a strong military.”
It the recent months it has been reported that China has invested significant funds in using AI technology to boost its military prowess. It is reportedly planning on making use of robots and robotics in an effort to increase its bomb and shell production capacity by threefold within a decade. It is using the technology of Artificial Intelligence in order to achieve this goal and boost the productivity of its ammunition factories.
It is also planning to update its old outdated computer systems aboard nuclear submarines with artificial intelligence. This could potentially enhance the analytical skills of commanding officers.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole fighters. The fifth-generation combat aircraft is designed to perform ground attack and air superiority missions. On 2 August 2016, the U.S. Air Force declared its first squadron of F-35A fighters combat-ready.
On September 2017, the J-20 stealth fighter was officially commissioned into military service. At the time, it became the third operational fifth-generation stealth fighter aircraft in the world, and the first in Asia.
Beijing-based military analyst Li Jie said China felt an urgent need to boost its air power as neighbors upgraded their air forces. “With the J-20 entering combat service, China can better counter other countries’ rising military forces,” Li said
The Chengdu J-20 is equipped with Russian Saturn AL-31 engines. In 2017, it was reported that it may be getting outfitted with new engines. There are plans in place to have them replaced with indigenous engines manufactured in China. The Chengdu Aerospace Superalloy Technology Company is a privately held corporation.
Many have compared it America’s Lockheed Martin F-35, which the US President himself has criticized for being too expensive. In December 2016 Trump tweeted, “The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th.” The deal between US government and Lockheed Martin is said to $400 billion and the plane is considered the most expensive weapons system in military history.
Mark Shackelford, acquisition deputy to the assistant secretary of the US Air Force once described the F-35 as America’s “premier surface-to-air missile killer and is uniquely equipped for this mission with cutting-edge processing power, synthetic aperture radar integration techniques and advanced target recognition.”
Justin Bronk, a research fellow specialising in combat air power at the Royal United Services Institute has noted that the J-20 actually boasts longer range, more internal fuel capacity and larger internal weapons capability when compared to US fighter jets (fifth generation). F-35, which is built for stealth can still be detected by low-frequency radar. J-20’s nose and canopy design employ a similar design to that of F-22 and therefore it will be hard to detect it on the front. However, it sides can be exposed by radar.
The Chinese counterpart is also reportedly less expensive that the US version. “The price of Chinese self-developed military weapon is normally one-fifth to one-third of the price of a similar US weapon. And the purchase price of a military weapon is 5 per cent bigger than the real cost,” said military observer Zhou Chenming.
Our assessment is that China’s J-20 could completely shift the geopolitical balance in the Asian continent. When compared to its US counterpart, it has proved to be value for money and effective in its purpose.