China tests stealth fighter as Gates meets with Hu

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Between early November 2010 and this month, the J-20 carried out at least four high-speed taxi runs, resulting in more than two hours of ground testing being completed on the airframe, according to reports from Asia.

Two J-20 demonstrator aircraft were spotted at the Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute airfield, which adjoins Aircraft Plant No. 132, in southwest China’s Sichuan province, where Monday’s flight test took place.

Defense sources said two recent computer simulations that played out aerial conflicts between U.S. and Chinese forces showed disturbing results.

One was performed by the Rand Corp. for the U.S. Air Force, according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, which analyzed and publicized the results. A separate simulation exercise was performed by an Australian defense contractor for the Australian military.

The exercises revealed Chinese successes at both the strategic and theater level, as well as in one-on-one aircraft engagements against the PLAAF, according to intelligence and military officials in Asia.

Assuming a shoot-down ratio of six Chinese jets to every U.S. fighter and that each high-tech U.S. air-to-air missile fired would take out its Chinese target with no misses or misfires — both optimistic assumptions — “the PLAAF would still carry the day because of sheer numbers,” said the Australian defense contractor.

U.S. air forces currently are “more than just jet pilots wearing white scarves doing battle with one another in the skies,” said the Australian contractor, who is a former fighter pilot with the Royal Australian Air Force and is involved in current assessments of the Chinese military.

“Today, there is increased reliance on battle-management assets like the [Boeing E-3 AWACS] Sentry aircraft, [the RC-135] Rivet Joint and Combat Sent platforms, plus tankers,” he said. “All of the available simulation data has the PLAAF — even after these loss-exchange ratios — still having enough numbers to take out these assets, whereby the U.S. air-battle capability collapses.”

The Australian contractor also said that what makes the simulation results more alarming is that their war-gaming input data was based on China’s top-line aircraft in the future being the Russian-designed Sukhoi Su-35, a “four-plus” generation jet with fewer stealth features and assessed to be less capable than a jet like the J-20.

If the new Chinese aircraft enters service by 2017 as PLAAF officials have previously stated, “the numbers become even more unpleasant for the U.S. side,” said the Australian analyst.

U.S. intelligence and defense agencies sought to play down the J-20 program, asserting that difficulties with the jet’s engines and the long periods required for Chinese fighter development are factors.

Director of the Office of Naval Intelligence Vice Adm. David J. Dorsett told reporters on Jan. 5 that the J-20 will not be fully operational for years and is in “early development.” Adm. Dorsett said the new jet was not a surprise, but added, as did Mr. Gates, that the speed of China’s progress was “underestimated.”

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