Monday, September 17, 2012

So Where's Our Stealth Fighter

According to's "Danger Room" China has not one but two stealth fighters.

It's been almost two years since China revealed the Chengdu J-20 stealth warplane.    Now rival Shenyang has apparently produced its own stealth fighter, designated J-21.

It’s unclear whether Beijing intends to compete the J-20 against the J-21 for a single acquisition program. It’s equally possible both jets are meant for production. It’s also conceivable that neither is — that they’re both strictly test vehicles. “Feng,” an analyst writing for Information Dissemination, believes Beijing can only afford to manufacture one of the new planes and will be forced to choose. But that’s conjecture. As with any Chinese weapons initiative, among outsiders there are more questions than answers.

For example, just how stealthy is the J-21 — and for that matter, the slightly older J-20? Both share the general shape of the U.S. F-22. But American stealth design relies on more than shape. Special radar-absorbing materials, sophisticated heat-absorption systems, “silent” electronic gear plus extreme high speed and altitude performance all combine to give the F-22 its so-far unique ability to evade enemy defenses. It’s hard to say whether China has mastered, or even attempted, those techniques.

Of course many of America's  "radar-absorbing materials, sophisticated heat-absorption systems, [and] “silent” electronic gear" secrets fell into 'enemy hands' just before Christmas when a Lockheed RQ-170 stealth drone was hijacked and landed intact by Iranian forces as it flew above that country's nuclear sites.

But if Russia has its own stealth fighter (India too, soon) and China has two stealth fighters of its own, where is our stealth warplane, the one that's been in development since - well, since forever?   The idea, as I understand it, was that we were going to pay megabucks for this overdue, overpriced and under-performing F-35 so we could be the first on the block to have one.

No comments: