China Flanker Thread II


Tirdent

Junior Member
Registered Member
The same Chinese language insider post from Yankee that described the AI/duel-mode being neat was also the same post that wrote the J-16 as being superior to Su-35 in terms of the primary radar and in terms of ESM and ECM.

As for the radar, I acknowledged as much in my original post, didn't I? But the thing is that you have to take a more holistic view, perhaps focusing too much on individual systems rather than their performance in concert is why "Duel" is seen as so novel?

His rating the (RF) ESM/ECM on the Su-35 as inferior is the one thing that stands out, but could be explained by downgrading for export in keeping with past practice. So in that regard his statements may be true but at the same time have no bearing on Russian-operated Su-35, as Bronk argues.

Regarding the use of composites, I don't think that was often attributed to primer colour -- rather it was part of the consistent set of rumours going back over a decade. If the rumour is true, it is likely about a decade out of date.

I'm less concerned with whether the rumour still applies if you factor in the Su-35 than if it was ever true in the first place. Even the Su-35 falls well short of the scope of changes required to reduce OEW below the original Su-27, in fact with all the new equipment, higher payload/MTOW and longer service life it is somewhat heavier.

As I said, the rumour has never been substantiated to my knowledge and over the years a considerable body of circumstantial evidence has accumulated which argues against it.
 

Bltizo

Lieutenant General
Staff member
Super Moderator
Registered Member
As for the radar, I acknowledged as much in my original post, didn't I? But the thing is that you have to take a more holistic view, perhaps focusing too much on individual systems rather than their performance in concert is why "Duel" is seen as so novel?

His rating the (RF) ESM/ECM on the Su-35 as inferior is the one thing that stands out, but could be explained by downgrading for export in keeping with past practice. So in that regard his statements may be true but at the same time have no bearing on Russian-operated Su-35, as Bronk argues.

I'm just pointing out that the same source that you're referring to with regards to the duel system in post #8822, also gave the remarks about J-16 having a better radar and being slightly more capable in ESM and ECM capabilities, because in post #8822 you said that Su-35 "seems to have a more comprehensive EW suite" and "very powerful ECM".

It's possible that the Su-35s Russia sold used downgraded ESM and ECM suites, but at the same time is the idea that J-16's ESM and ECM suites are marginally better than Su-35s that Russia are buying for themselves something difficult to entertain?
The description was one where the PLAAF Su-35s ESM suite was "85% as capable as J-16" and where the ECM suite was "80% as capable as J-16".
If we consider the hypothetical idea that the Su-35s the PLAAF bought had the same ESM and ECM suite as VKS Su-35s -- well given the respective eras in which each aircraft was developed, I don't think it's condemnatory or beyond the pale.

(The above, all meaning RF ESM and ECM -- in terms of electro optic self defense, Su-35 clearly has a more comprehensive MAWS/LWR suite)


I'm less concerned with whether the rumour still applies if you factor in the Su-35 than if it was ever true in the first place. Even the Su-35 falls well short of the scope of changes required to reduce OEW below the original Su-27, in fact with all the new equipment, higher payload/MTOW and longer service life it is somewhat heavier.

As I said, the rumour has never been substantiated to my knowledge and over the years a considerable body of circumstantial evidence has accumulated which argues against it.

Considering we haven't had any rumours as to the extent of composites and/or weight savings that the J-16 has yielded, I would park this one as a solid "impossible to even guess".
 

supersnoop

Senior Member
Registered Member
Just to expand on the rumour a bit (in case anyone ever wants to go looking into it).

The J-11 was to be assembled from CKD kits initially, so basically no actual manufacturing done. However, we know for a fact that the localization of manufacturing happened ahead of schedule.

The rumour assumes that this is due to parts substitution rather than accelerated technology transfer, even though the latter is a possibility.

Another reason why I think the rumour persists is because the low level of parts localization of the Indian Su-30MKI, and major overhaul still required Russian assistance.
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Specifically it had mentioned Titanium parts.

Playing my own devil’s advocate, an Irkut PowerPoint said 80% of the plane is made in India vs. 51% in the above article
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Anyway, I don’t make any ownership to these claims, just what I’ve seen over time.
 

Tirdent

Junior Member
Registered Member
It's possible that the Su-35s Russia sold used downgraded ESM and ECM suites, but at the same time is the idea that J-16's ESM and ECM suites are marginally better than Su-35s that Russia are buying for themselves something difficult to entertain?
The description was one where the PLAAF Su-35s ESM suite was "85% as capable as J-16" and where the ECM suite was "80% as capable as J-16".
If we consider the hypothetical idea that the Su-35s the PLAAF bought had the same ESM and ECM suite as VKS Su-35s -- well given the respective eras in which each aircraft was developed, I don't think it's condemnatory or beyond the pale.

Clearly, it's theoretically possible - I'm just pointing out why in practice even Yankee may have no way of knowing, and that there are reasons to remain on the fence.

For the (export?) ESM component of the Su-35 suite quite a few technical specs are available, but (as with Izd. 30 and WS-15) there is hardly anything on the Chinese side to compare them to. Jumping to the conclusion that they must be better is - given the relative merits of the Chinese and Russian industries involved - much more justified than in the engine case, but still a bit of a leap.

On the subject of ECM, even the Russian L-265 (a Khibiny derivative) is largely shrouded in mystery. There have been unconfirmed rumours that it may use AESA antennas, which isn't as outlandish as it may sound at first - Rafale's SPECTRA also used AESA emitters long before the main radar got an active array. You need far fewer TRMs and lower power levels per module to equip a jammer, making the whole proposition economically viable at a much earlier stage of TRM maturity.

In fact, similar considerations mean that it is easier in general to make a cutting-edge jammer than a cutting-edge radar - we can refer back to the F-15C and Su-27S for an example. Sorbtsiya with its (passive) phased array emitters was generally considered superior to the ECM component of TEWS, even though the US clearly had access to more advanced radar technology.

Still, largely rumours on both sides, and the one more believable data point (Yankee's assessment) is also open to doubt on this particular issue.

Considering we haven't had any rumours as to the extent of composites and/or weight savings that the J-16 has yielded, I would park this one as a solid "impossible to even guess".

Or that may be because, as with the Su-35, there simply aren't any worth mentioning. Again, it is in part high quality photographs of the J-16 that I'm referring to when I say the Chinese derivatives are structurally closer to the basic Flanker.
 

Tirdent

Junior Member
Registered Member
Just to expand on the rumour a bit (in case anyone ever wants to go looking into it).

The J-11 was to be assembled from CKD kits initially, so basically no actual manufacturing done. However, we know for a fact that the localization of manufacturing happened ahead of schedule.

The rumour assumes that this is due to parts substitution rather than accelerated technology transfer, even though the latter is a possibility.

Another reason why I think the rumour persists is because the low level of parts localization of the Indian Su-30MKI, and major overhaul still required Russian assistance.
Please, Log in or Register to view URLs content!

Specifically it had mentioned Titanium parts.

Playing my own devil’s advocate, an Irkut PowerPoint said 80% of the plane is made in India vs. 51% in the above article
Please, Log in or Register to view URLs content!

Anyway, I don’t make any ownership to these claims, just what I’ve seen over time.

I still don't see a compelling argument why that would lead to a large-scale introduction of composites in Chinese Flankers. That is predicated on the assumption that acquiring composite technology would come easier to SAC than titanium manufacture.

Incidentally this logic would probably work for India (which invested heavily in composites for Tejas) but is struggling with engine manufacture (still the biggest application of titanium in an aircraft!). If you look at the wider Chinese aerospace industry however, there is no reason to believe it would make sense. Its level of composite tech is good but not exceptional (compare the MS-21 and C919), while its engine sector is much more mature than India's. Wasn't the organization responsible for the WS-10 loosely associated with SAC in particular?

And in any case, it bears repeating that making major changes to airframe materials (even changing between alloys of the same base metal, sometimes) is a huge undertaking. Considering the specific parts of the Su-27 airframe that are titanium (engine bay skin and bulkheads, central fuselage bulkheads, wing spars) we are talking about a particularly massive effort. Those are some of the most challenging parts to make out of composite you can find in an aircraft! Which explains why India never even considered going that route.
 

ougoah

Brigadier
Registered Member
I doubt there are that much mechanical changes made to J-16. Additional composites or not, the primary task with the entire J-16 program was to develop a Chinese version of the Su-30 that would fill a multirole ... role no other PLAAF aircraft fulfilled - competence in A2A and A2G in a way J-11B and JH-7A cannot match.

The J-16 took A2A a step forward in every way compared to J-10A and J-11B. It took A2G a step forward compared to JH-7A in some but not all ways. Improving the ESM, ECM, radar performance (via technology advantages of AESA*), and sensor fusion to a level beyond what even Su-35 offers (at least export Su-35) is only reflective of the difference in the capabilities between the two in those relevant fields. The reasons for those differences becoming that substantial we can only speculate as falling upon China's decades of learning and massive funding for those programs vs Soviet collapse and the brain & funding drain post collapse for RF. Su-35 was also developed and completed development before the J-16. Sensor fusion being superior on the J-16 is based on the comments from PLAAF over the years.

Su-35 is said by PLAAF to be a superior performer (kinematically) and have better engines than the WS-10A on the J-16s. Since J-16 represents the best of what Chinese industry could provide in the 2010s, Su-35 would represent the best Russian industry could provide in the 2000s. There is quite a time gap between this. It wouldn't be surprising that J-16 and Su-35 measure up exactly like how the PLAAF leak said they do. One thing is for sure, the J-16 is not intended as a kinematically dominant fighter like the Su-35 was intended to be from day 1. The J-16 fulfills its role perfectly as the versatile multirole fighter that was designed out of the J-11B and Su-30MKK/MK2, taking their A2A and A2G levels to another level.

If two Su-35s were pitted against two J-16s in BVR and you were made to make a serious and significant bet on the outcome, what would you pick?

*The only potential disruption to expected outcome would be the unknown effectiveness of Irbis-E paired with R-37M at those extreme detection ranges >300km. This would involve Su-35s receiving cuing support but reasonably assuming it has them, this would be Su-35's trump card. J-16 has PL-2x though but no PLAAF has been allowed to reveal the performance of the J-16's AESA. One thing is for sure, PLAAF have not considered buying any more Su-35s while over a hundred more J-16s have been added to PLAAF since receiving Su-35 (in 2016 with contract to buy signed well before 2016 during J-20 and J-11D programs ahem ahem) and PLAAF has no interest in PESA radars or buying Russian radars while at least two newer AESAs have been developed and put into PLAAF service since PLAAF began operating Su-35s. These two are J-10C's (first service in 2018 or 2017 if photos were presented later) and J-20's... years and years after PLAAF evaluated Su-35 performance in Russia well before deciding to buy and then actually buying. This time gap is at least equal if not greater than development time for those two newer AESAs.

PLAAF also has AESA for J-16D, J-15B, J-31/35 will surely feature an AESA. This could potentially be because Chinese industry is set on AESA and tooled for its production now, but every other nation seems to be agreeing on the AESA path. This cannot be a coincidence. Russia itself has an AESA for the Su-57. Certain inherent properties of AESA must have overall advantage over PESA. In a long range fight between Su-35 and J-16, how realistically useful and effective is the 350km special mode detection range paired with R-37M going to be? Certainly of some use but we just don't know how much. If it were the secret to even challenging USAF, you can bet that China would buy hundreds of Su-35s with R-37M (they are both for sale after all and have been for a long time now) and then apply the same strategy through adopting the same method for other PLAAF fighters and reverse engineering the identical method. But the PLAAF hasn't since 2016 and instead doubled down on J-20 and new revelations show the near future step is J-20 paired with Dark Sword UCAV.
 
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optionsss

Junior Member
I don't think J-11B use of composites are rumors, in the CCTV documentary on J-11 they mentioned the development and use of composites materials. Here is the YouTube video, composite material part starts at 27 minute mark. It is in chinese.


 

ougoah

Brigadier
Registered Member
Su-35 is said by PLAAF to be a superior performer (kinematically) and have better engines than the WS-10A on the J-16s. Since J-16 represents the best of what Chinese industry could provide in the 2010s, Su-35 would represent the best Russian industry could provide in the 2000s. There is quite a time gap between this. It wouldn't be surprising that J-16 and Su-35 measure up exactly like how the PLAAF leak said they do. One thing is for sure, the J-16 is not intended as a kinematically dominant fighter like the Su-35 was intended to be from day 1. The J-16 fulfills its role perfectly as the versatile multirole fighter that was designed out of the J-11B and Su-30MKK/MK2, taking their A2A and A2G levels to another level.

I think here I should really add that this is a bit nuanced.

In the 2010s both nations were already finalising their 5th generation fighters. J-20 reached service at least in 2018 (possibly earlier depending on how long PLAAF delays publicly announcing when a new fighter has reached service).

J-16 represents the best of what Chinese industry could provide for a 4th generation modernisation during the 2010s. In a similar vein, the F-22 was developed in the 1990s and finalised in the 2000s when it reached service around 2006 or so iirc. The USAF introduced F-15EX very recently and most modernised F-15 variant was developed in the 2010s. Therefore the F-15EX represents the best of what US industry could provide for a 4th gen modernisation during the 2010s. This doesn't account for 5th generations. Airforces still need 4.5 gen fighters and their "unrestricted" payload configurations.
 

Tirdent

Junior Member
Registered Member
I don't think J-11B use of composites are rumors, in the CCTV documentary on J-11 they mentioned the development and use of composites materials. Here is the YouTube video, composite material part starts at 27 minute mark. It is in chinese.


Well, since I don't understand Chinese I can only go by the footage, and that shows generic composite manufacturing of small parts and a cockpit windscreen. Apart from the latter, they may or may not belong to the J-11 (or to bike frames, for all the evidence to the contrary), but they sure as hell are not of a size which would be suitable to shave off hundreds of kilograms. Can you (or anyone else) provide a summary of what is being said on the subject? Is it stated which parts of the J-11 airframe are supposed to be composite?
 

gelgoog

Major
Registered Member
The Su-35 is basically a stop gap solution the Russian Federation came up with to compete against fighters like the F-22.
It had to be able to be produced quickly so it uses technologies which to a large extent are based on existing Flanker components.
I doubt the Su-35 sold to China was degraded in any way in terms of capabilities.

China had the benefit of being able to jump technologies so they went straight to AESA. From what I have heard first generation AESA with GaA modules had some performance issues. So it might not be better than the Su-35 radar in air to air mode. Could even be worse. 2nd generation AESA with GaN modules is clearly better than the Su-35 radar in terms of power per area.

The Su-57 upgraded all the avionics deeply and Sukhoi even developed their own flight computer hardware. It should be at least a decade more advanced than the Su-35 avionics if not more. Still China has the capability to make better hardware than that because it has a much more advanced electronics industry particularly in semiconductors.
 

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