Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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4th Gen ++ Fighters to Account for Most Chinese and Russian Fighters in the Future


(Photo : PLAAF) J-11D fighters of the PLAAF.

Fourth generation ++ jet fighters such as China's Shenyang J-15 and Russia's Sukhoi Su-35 will comprise the bulk of the fighter forces of both the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) in the future despite the advent of fifth generation stealth fighters, said a Russian military expert.

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Vasily Kashin, Ph.D, Senior Research Fellow at the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, said it's hard to say when Russian and Chinese stealth fighters will become combat ready.

Russia recently placed its first order for its only stealth fighter, the Sukhoi PAK FA, while China's Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter was to have joined the PLAAF in December 2016, but seem to not have done so.

PAK FA should finally see service by 2025 after it receives new jet engines that only recently completed their first ground tests. That is, if Putin's cash-strapped Russia can cough-up the money to finance its most expensive aircraft.

Western experts tend to view the J-20 as not a true stealth fighter but a "low observable" jet without the "all aspect stealth" (or stealth from any angle) that qualifies an aircraft as a true stealth aircraft.

The J-20 stealth is mostly forward facing, meaning its radar cross section is at its smallest when seen by radar head-on. From other angles, the big J-20 with its many un-stealth like surfaces like its canards, appears as large as a fourth generation fighter on radar screens.

"Combat units of the People's Liberation Army Air Force are likely to adopt the J-20 faster than the fighting units of the Russian Aerospace Forces. At the same time one must understand that 4++ generation fighter aircraft will form the backbone of China's and Russia's offensive airpower for many years to come," said Kashin.

"Upgrading the technical base of the Armed Forces, particularly, PLAN (People's Liberation Army Navy) and PLAAF, will become a major part of the efforts aimed at reforming the Chinese military in 2017," said Kashin.

He said that China continued to mass-produce the Chengdu J-10, a lightweight multirole fighter aircraft, and conducted successful tests of the Shenyang J-11D jet fighter. Both these aircraft are fourth generation fighters.

Kashin noted the J-11D is the best Chinese aircraft built on the Su-27 platform, adding the J-11D is close to entering mass production.

Kashin also said the Shenyang J-31 (a clone of the Lockheed Martin F-35) was considered a less risky project than the J-20, but its development slowed down in 2016.

He noted, however, that China's J-20 program appears to be proceeding as planned.

"In 2016, (the) first fifth-generation J-20 fighter jets were transferred to the People's Liberation Army Air Force," he said.

"This is currently the riskiest and the most technically complex project for the Chinese industry as is evidenced by America's experience in testing and phasing in fifth generation fighter jets."

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