In the spring of 2017, the air forces of the People's Liberation Army of China officially announced the adoption of the latest Chengdu J-20 fighter. As a result, the PRC became the second country in the world to adopt a fifth-generation fighter. To date, the serial production of such equipment has been mastered and work continues on the second model of the last generation. Consider the success of China in more detail.
First and only
The first and so far the only 5 generation fighter in service with the PLA Air Force is the J-20 developed by Chengdu Aerospace Corporation (CAC). Unfortunately, according to Chinese tradition, most of the information on the progress of development, testing, etc. classified. However, even without this, an approximate picture can be made.
The development of a new generation fighter began in the late nineties and was conducted on a competitive basis. In 2008, CAC won the competition and began the full development of a new aircraft. Soon, the Air Force announced their plans. The first flight of the future J-20 was planned for the 2010-11, and by the 2019 they were going to put it into service.
The first flight of the experimental J-20 took place in the spring of 2011. Over the next few years, tests of experimental equipment were carried out - at least 8 prototype aircraft. Since a certain time, J-20 has been regularly shown at public events.
Not later than the end of 2015, the CAC began mass production of new aircraft, so far at a slow pace. In March 2017, they announced the acceptance of the J-20 into service. A few months later, the media reported on the imminent start of full-scale serial production. At the beginning of 2018, the first units fully equipped with J-20 aircraft began their service.
According to available information, at least 28-30 Chengdu J-20 fighters have been built to date, including several prototypes. Deliveries of equipment to the troops are being carried out, but in view of its small quantity, it has so far been possible to rearm literally a couple of parts. It is expected that further serial construction will allow to continue the re-equipment of the Air Force and lead to an increase in their combat effectiveness.
While development work continues on the promising Shenyang FC-31 fighter, designed to complement the existing J-20 in the future. According to various estimates, this machine can already be prepared for the series and will go to the troops in the very near future.
The existence of the second project of the 5 generation fighter for the PLA Air Force became known back in 2011, when an interesting model appeared at one of the exhibitions. The following year, several interesting photographs showing the new aircraft became public. Later it became known that at the end of October such a machine made its first flight.
Later it became known that the project was developed by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) in the interests of its own air forces and third countries. The official name of the aircraft is FC-31; J-31 index is also used. It was developed as a lightweight and simplified addition to the more sophisticated J-20. At the same time, despite all the limitations and differences, the FC-31 must comply with the requirements for the 5 generation.
Since 2012, at least two Shenyang FC-31 prototypes have undergone flight tests. About a year ago, it became known that the project is now being carried out under the supervision of the PLA Air Force and Navy. For the latter, a specialized deck modification can be created. However, later these plans were abandoned.
Tests and refinements are not yet completed, and the timing of their completion remains unclear. It was repeatedly mentioned earlier that the FC-31 will go into production and enter the army at the end of the current decade or later. 2020 is approaching, but no News on the topic of the series or adoption has not yet been received. Perhaps the plane is not yet ready for service. However, it is possible that the first production vehicles have already gone to the Air Force, but this fact is still being hidden for reasons of secrecy.
China has two own fighter projects of the last 5 generation, which provides it with some independence in matters of modernization of the Air Force. Such independence, among other things, is manifested in the absence of open interest in foreign projects. At the same time, official Beijing buys fighters of previous generations.
At the moment, the purchase of imported 5 generation fighters can be considered one of the options for further developments - unlikely, but possible. Despite the well-known position of the PRC, this issue attracts specialists and the press, including Chinese
There are not too many offers in the 5 generation fighter market yet, and some are not available for China. So, the purchase of American F-35 aircraft is impossible by definition. Other countries trying to create modern technology are not yet ready to export it. The only real option is the Russian Su-57E fighter.
The export version of the Russian Su-57 has been developed over the past few years, and this year it was first shown to the public. It is known that several foreign countries have already shown interest in the Su-57E and are ready to purchase a certain amount of such equipment. The PLA Air Force has not yet responded to the Russian novelty. At the same time, the Chinese press has been discussing for several years the possibility of acquiring an imported aircraft.
5 Generation Future
The PLA’s general plans for last-generation fighters are generally understood. Only the specific numbers, dates and distribution of equipment between the parts of the air force and the sea are unknown. aviation. Available data allow us to imagine what Chinese fighter aircraft will look like in the medium term and in the more distant future.
One of the first photos of Shenyang FC-31, 2012
The main fighter of the 5 generation in the Air Force should be Chengdu J-20. It has already been adopted and is being built in series, but has not yet managed to become massive. In the future, the situation will change. CAC will have to deliver at least a few dozen of these machines. The exact plans are unknown, but it cannot be ruled out that they will try to bring the total fleet of J-20 to hundreds of units, and this will allow decommissioning a lot of obsolete equipment.
In August, it became known that the J-20 will become the basis for the rearmament of naval aviation. The Navy command studied the new equipment and decided that this aircraft surpasses the newer Shenyang FC-31 in all basic characteristics. Thus, plans for the further development of aviation fleet the leading role is given to the larger and more advanced J-20. According to some reports, in the future, on its basis they can create a new carrier-based carrier-based fighter.
The tests of the second generation 5 fighter, the FC-31, are coming to an end. Over the next few years, it is expected to be adopted and the launch of mass production. From the latest statements it follows that he will be received only in the Air Force. The fleet was not interested in such a technique that, among other things, excludes the possibility of creating a deck modification.
At the same time, the circle of customers of the FC-31 is probably not limited to only the PLA Air Force. This machine was created taking into account future sales in the international market. Earlier, there were rumors about negotiations on the sale of fighters to one or another country, but they have not yet received confirmation.
China plans to develop combat aircraft mainly on its own. Two fifth-generation fighter projects have been created, and one has already been brought to service. In such a situation, the purchase of foreign equipment does not look appropriate and necessary. As a result, Beijing does not raise the issue of acquiring Su-57E or other similar aircraft.
Renewal of the PLA fighter aircraft may encounter a characteristic problem. The Air Force and Navy have a lot of outdated equipment, and modern models are of high cost. All of this can seriously impede the desired modernization of the armed forces.
First public demonstration of FC-31, 2014
Currently, there are about 1500-1600 fighters of a number of types and modifications in the land and sea aviation of China, including quite old. Modern models include no more than a third of them. Accordingly, the rest will become hopelessly obsolete in the medium term and will require an urgent replacement.
According to various estimates, the cost of a serial fighter J-20 does not exceed 50 million US dollars. FC-31 did not reach the series, and so for now it costs about 70 millions. Replacing obsolete aircraft requires hundreds of new ones, and building the desired number of J-20 and FC-31 will require enormous expenses. However, obsolete types do not have to be replaced with samples of the latest generation. However, in this case, the construction of a sufficient number of 5 generation fighters will be expensive, complicated and time-consuming.
Thus, despite all the efforts of the aviation industry, the Air Force and Navy will still be forced to use a mixed fleet, including fighters of different generations. In the coming years, the proportion of modern and promising technology will gradually grow, but overall will not remain too high.
However, in this case, China will be able to get all the desired benefits from the development, construction and operation of the 5 generation fighters. Moreover, such benefits will be associated both with the rearmament of their own army, and with earnings on export contracts.