According to numerous military experts, the anticipated total production of J-20 fighters by China’s People’s Liberation Army [PLA] is predicted to soon surmount, if it hasn’t already, the threshold of 200 units. For China, this heralds an era of military advancement. Meanwhile, for the US, it signifies the emergence of an increasingly potent threat.
- China’s Air Force growing: 15 new J-16s and 11 J-20s since January
- B-21 ‘downed’ by a 6 Mach speed missile coming from near space
- China’s L-15 light aircraft may replace aging Pakistani F-16
One aspect worth noting is the shrinking disparity in the number of stealth fighters between the air forces of China and the US. It has dwindled down to less than 180. When we eliminate the count of the F-22 fleet, which is primarily grounded due to aging concerns, the quantity may drop even further to approximately 150 aircraft.
This is without a doubt a significant accomplishment for the People’s Liberation Army. With the new Chengdu Aircraft factory nearing operation, it’s predicted that the annual production rate of J-20 fighters will eclipse the 100-aircraft mark.
Considering the lag in the launch of the two primary F-35 TR 3 and Block 4 upgrade models, the US Air Force has been progressively reducing F-35A shipments over the years. As a result, in the foreseeable future, we can estimate that the average annual augmentation of the US Air Force F-35A fleet will hover around 30-50 aircraft.
All this culminates in the key prediction that within 2-3 years, the discrepancy in the count of stealth aircraft within the air forces of China and the US is anticipated to close.
Eyes on the J-16D
It’s fascinating to note that the PLA’s J-16D fighters have garnered significant attention from numerous analysts, more so than the production of the J-20. Indeed, some have even suggested that the J-16D poses the greatest threat to the F-22 fighter.
One might wonder, what led these analysts to this conclusion? Quite simply, it’s the J-16D’s distinctive electronic warfare capabilities that set it apart from other fighters.
In layman’s terms, even though the J-16D may not boast of stealth performance on a par with the J-20 and F-22, its battlefield survivability in the perilous airspace of an intense radar detection network rivals that of the stealth fighters. Undeniably, the significance of its electronic warfare capabilities should not be underestimated.
Emitting and collecting
Radar equipment fundamentally operates by transmitting electromagnetic waves via its antenna and collecting echoes reflected by the target. This process enables the radar to visually represent the target’s three-dimensional location relative to the radar itself on the radar screen.
Within this framework, electronic warfare aircraft can conduct frequency analysis and antenna positioning on the incoming radar waves, subsequently launching a false echo back a significant volume of electromagnetic waves to the target antenna.
The intervention is usually twofold, adapting to the requirements of specific tasks. The first effect is to directly disrupt the opponent’s radar channel by swamping it with artificial echoes, causing an overload and in effect, paralysis.
On the other hand, it can generate a substantial volume of “phantom” target signals on the enemy’s radar screen. This often leads to incorrect decisions being made at the enemy’s command level. Predominantly, the former tactic is used to mask the signals of major air forces, while the latter is the direct opposite. It is typically employed when a small group of fighter jets is trying to feign the presence of a larger fleet.
J-16D along with J-20
Active jamming, a feature of electronic warfare aircraft, results in a significant amount of signal emission. Given this, it’s entirely feasible that the J-16D could be detected from a distance, considering the predominantly passive detection capabilities of F-22 and F-35.
While the J-16D proffers a potent challenge to F-22/F-35, the highest win ratio achievable by either side barely tips over in favor, with a maximum of 6 to 4—4 being for J-16D. However, when matched against the F-35, equipped with superior electronic hardware, this ratio may further lessen the J-16D’s disadvantage.
In terms of the People’s Liberation Army’s strategy against American stealth fighters, the J-20 fighter remains its prime countermeasure. The supportive adjunct role played by the J-16D, helps tip the scales in favor of China’s air combat system against the US Air Force. Your investment in an effective tandem like this is bound to reap meaningful rewards during aerial combat situations.
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