Future PLA combat aircraft composition


Totoro

Captain
VIP Professional
Tell me how unrealistic, and why, my list is. j-18, j-21 and jh8 are purely notional nomenclature representing next gen carrier fighter, next gen single engine fighter and next gen striker/bomber, respectively. For whatever reason i included su30 under fighters even though, obviously, theyre going to be used more as strikers. Original su27 and J11a i all bunched under j11. I also did not differentiate between j10 A and B.
All the figures are in service figures. Meaning, i fully expect a regiment of j15 to be in training in 2015. but i don't expect it to be ready for full active service.

Increase in number of planes post 2030 i attributed to greater cold war antagonism between US and China. It is pure political speculation, of course.

2011:

100 su30
270 j11a
80 j11b
200 j10
200 jh7
250 j7e/g
300 j7 older variants
250 j8f/h
60 h6g/m
60 h6 older variants
150 q5

fighter: 1400
bomber/strike: 470

2015:
100 su30
250 j11a
180 j11b
350 j10
250 jh7
250 j7e/g
150 j8f/h
60 h6g/m
30 h6k

fighterr: 1280
bomber: 340

2020:
100 su30
200 j11a
240 j11b
500 j10
30 j20
250 jh7
150 j7e/g
60 h6g/m
60 h6k
40 j15

fighter: 1260
bomber: 370

2025:
50 su30
100 j11a
240 j11b
600 j10
30 j18
150 j20
200 jh7
60 h6g/m
60 h6k
30 jh8
80 j15

fighter: 1250
bomber: 290

2030:
240 j11b
600 j10
180 j18
280 j20
150 jh7
30 h6g/m
60 h6k
90 jh8
120 j15

fighter: 1420
bomber: 330

2035:
240 j11b
550 j10
300 j18
400 j20
80 jh7
60 h6k
150 jh8
120 j15
30 j21

fighter: 1640
bomber/strike: 290
 

FORBIN

Lieutenant General
Registered Member
A small dot on the modernization of PLAAF and PLANAF for Fighter-Bombers in 2013 :

I precise exact numbers no disponibe for some aircrafts then in this case by calculating the number of regiments rounded up to include those for training, test...

PLAAF

Modern :
78 SU-27/ 6 Rgts
105 J-11/A/ with SU-27 6 rgts
100 J-11B/4 Rgts
73 SU-30/ 4 rgts
275 J-10/ 8 rgts
142? J-8 F/H/5 rgts
125+ JH-7/A/ 5 rgts
Total 900/27 Rgts 44 %

Old :
60? J-8 first/2rgts
800? J-7/ 27 rgts
300? Q-5/7/51Rgts rgts

Total 1160?/51Rgts 56 %

Total general : 2060

Historic :
1990 about 3000 mostly J-6, about 500 J-7
2005/6 : 30 % modern


PLANAF :

Modern
24 SU-30
24 J-11B
30 J-10
125 JH-7/A
60 J-8 F/H
Total 260 90 % modern

Old
30 J-7 10 % old

Total general : 290

For PLAN/PLANAF together : 2350 Fight-Bombers : 1160 modern and 1190 old : 50/50 %


So there is still a lot of older aircraft and PLANAF is very modern in proportion.

Total fighter-bombers PLAAF and PLANAF 2060 + 290 : 2350 + bombers 135 H-6 : 2485

USA have : USAF ( with armed UAV ) : about 1700 + USN Av 900 + USMC Av 350 Total : 2950
In more : ANG, AF Res about 700

In more all modern, some Stealth/5 gen much higher.
 
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mack8

Junior Member
Very interesting summary, thanks.

How this should be read?
Old :
60? J-8 first/2rgts
800? J-7/ 27 rgts
300? Q-5/7/51Rgts rgts
Would it be total 51 rgts, of which 2 J-8I, 27 J-7 and 22 Q-5 rgts? Or is it 7 Q-5 rgts, the rest to 51 being...?
 

HKSDU

Junior Member
A small dot on the modernization of PLAAF and PLANAF for Fighter-Bombers in 2013 :

I precise exact numbers no disponibe for some aircrafts then in this case by calculating the number of regiments rounded up to include those for training, test...

PLAAF

Modern :
78 SU-27/ 6 Rgts
105 J-11/A/ with SU-27 6 rgts
100 J-11B/4 Rgts
73 SU-30/ 4 rgts
275 J-10/ 8 rgts
142? J-8 F/H/5 rgts
125+ JH-7/A/ 5 rgts
Total 900/27 Rgts 44 %

Old :
60? J-8 first/2rgts
800? J-7/ 27 rgts
300? Q-5/7/51Rgts rgts

Total 1160?/51Rgts 56 %

Total general : 2060

Historic :
1990 about 3000 mostly J-6, about 500 J-7
2005/6 : 30 % modern


PLANAF :

Modern
24 SU-30
24 J-11B
30 J-10
125 JH-7/A
60 J-8 F/H
Total 260 90 % modern

Old
30 J-7 10 % old

Total general : 290

For PLAN/PLANAF together : 2350 Fight-Bombers : 1160 modern and 1190 old : 50/50 %


So there is still a lot of older aircraft and PLANAF is very modern in proportion.

Total fighter-bombers PLAAF and PLANAF 2060 + 290 : 2350 + bombers 135 H-6 : 2485

USA have : USAF ( with armed UAV ) : about 1700 + USN Av 900 + USMC Av 350 Total : 2950
In more : ANG, AF Res about 700

In more all modern, some Stealth/5 gen much higher.
JH-7/A is more like 10 regiments serving the PLAAF & PLANAF.

J-11B 5 regiments. 1 PLANAF, 4 PLAAF

J-7 are in the high 500's with 22 regiments

J-8 8 regiments, 2 recon regiments

Q-5 8 regiments
 

FORBIN

Lieutenant General
Registered Member
Very interesting summary, thanks.

How this should be read?


Would it be total 51 rgts, of which 2 J-8I, 27 J-7 and 22 Q-5 rgts? Or is it 7 Q-5 rgts, the rest to 51 being...?
300? Q-5/7/51Rgts
: 7 rgts ofc

51 with H-6 and J-8 modern ( error ) but for this post only old fighter bombers : 27 J-7 + 2 J-8I old + 7 Q-5 : 36 rgts

But always 1160 old fighter bombers.

Any number for advanced training aircraft i have for PLAAF only :

40 JJ-7/Mig-21 Entr
400 max JJ-6/Mig-19 Entr, i think less
6 JL-9
2 JL-15
190 JL-8/K-8 Entr, minimum i think

?
 

Totoro

Captain
VIP Professional
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #9
Bltizo (why not blitzo?) said this in another thread:

"a PLAAF of the mid 2030s should aim for:
400 J-20s
100+ H-18s
40 H-20s
120+ (?) legacy H-6Ks
800-1000 J-10 and flanker variants"

which made me think and write the following:
that's some 1600 combat aircraft. compared to some 1700 that plaaf has today. that in itself seems fine, but i have an inkling feeling the author may have meant plaaf and planaf together, even though he just wrote plaaf. if so, the drop in numbers would be too big.
usaf plans for 2035 roughly this: 1730 f35, 180 f22, 200 f15e, 150 other bombers (mix of new bomber and b1/b2/b52)
usaf today operates this: 1000 f16, 220 f15c, 220 f15e, 340 a10, 180 f22, 150 (roughly) bombers

total 2035 = roughly 2100 fighter/strike aicraft and 150 bombers.
total 2013 = roughly 2100 fighter/strike aircraft and 150 bombers.
while no one knows what the future will bring, one does try to plan for the future. and usaf does plan to maintain the current numbers (while possibly adding uavs on top of these figures)
During the nine years i've been following plaaf/planaf development, one thing has surprised me. inventory have remained the same. while other countries have been shrinking their air forces and focusing on quality alone, plaaf has both raised the quality and maintained quantity. production levels per year have really been maintained the whole time. if figures on scramble.nl are to believed, they havent really changed all the way from 1980s. only types of planes changed, j11 instead of j8, j10 instead of j7 etc.
Furhtermore, cost of the new planes depends on many factors, and stealth design and materials is only one of them. biggest issue and cost increases for f35 dont have anything to do with stealth but with other high tech features that may be integral for literally any other future plane, be it stealth or not.
newer will always be more expensive, and inflation plays a role in that as well. but stealth in itself isn't necesarrily unaffordable in large numbers, as f35 being fielded around the world shows. maybe 20 years ago a large chunk of R&D went into stealth, making it a premium commodity, but for future planes it does appear to be becoming a regular and expected feature as pretty much all developed countries are going in that direction and even developing such planes on their own.

in that context, having a fleet of 900 j10 and flankers (even if most are j10b and j16/j11d with new avionics and radars) as a mainstay in 2035. is just not enough. It is equivalent of of having 900 j8f and some notional superupgraded j7x, even with their BVR capabilities, today. In a sense, one could say today's plaaf wouldn't be that much weaker, relatively speaking in context of others, that that hypothetical plaaf of 2035.

"one should always aim higher". So if one aims for the fleet from the opening of this post, then reality might be even bleaker. There is really no reason for plaaf to keep putting into service flanker variants past 2025. It will be a 40 year old design by then. From 2014. to 2025. that's 12 years of further production from today, or something like 300 added airframes, at most.

If there is a new large striker or small bomber and if it is indeed produced by Shenyang, then we'd have a situation where shenyang does that, flanker variants plus j21/31. (for export or domestic, doesn't matter)

Xian certainly doesn't seem big enough to do both the new striker, new bomber and y20.

While there may be another redesign of j10 in mid 2020s, maybe we'll also see a new single engined design. Perhaps not ready to fully take over production by 2025., but possibly by 2030. That'd make j10 in production for almost 30 years, which is really a lot.

17 years of added j10 production at current pace might give some 450 more planes.

Assuming 8000 flight hour airframe (like current f16), even the first j10 might barely make it to 2035. Assuming 6000 flight hour (like su35) they may get start retired by 2030.

On average, i'd expect a few regiments of j10 indeed retired by 2035. So perhaps total production of 450+280 minus at least 50 lost in accidents (f16 had attrition rate of 0.2 to 2% per year) minus some 50 or so retired by 2035 could give us roughly 630 active j10.

By 2035. non j11b based flanker variants are sure to be retired as those have less than 6000 hrs per airframe and there should be little interest in preserving non compatible avionics in fleet for so long. So that's some 380 flankers of today plus 300 more airframes (by 2025) minus 220 retired ones minus 50 or so lost in accidents. So little over 400 flanker variant airframes.

All in all, by 2035. it is not unrealistic to expect combined j10 and flanker variant fleet for both plaaf and planaf to approach 1100 airframes. But mind you, that is with flankers being out of production for 10 years and j10 out of production for 5 years!

During a good deal of that time, say 2018 onward, j20 variants will surely be produced. Some low production rate of 12 would yield little over 200, while high production rate similar to what flankers represent today, of 24 or so a year, would yield over 400.

That still doesn't really tell us what Shenyang might produce from 2025. onward. Lots of j21/31 for export? or some for domestic use as well? Either we will see a jhx striker produced in a few hundred pieces or if that turns out so big and expensive that there'll be less than 100 of them, then something else like j21/31 is a given for china as well. 150 of such planes alongside a few dozen small supersonic bombers seems quite within even today's production rates.

j21/31 is a peculiar bird, really. i see it either used for carriers only, or bought by plaaf in large numbers, easely equalling j20, as a "lower" part of the mix, or not used by china at all. but if its not usef by china at all then carrier planes will be equipped by rather old designs in 2035. Therefore i'll assume the middle of the road plan and assume 150 birds for planaf only.
It seems jh7 will remain in production for at least until y20 gets online, a few more regiments. that's if j16 takes over its role. If it doesn't, then we'll get a jhx striker, not a bomber, and that will be its replacement. In any case, 100 or so jh7 might be alive by 2035. (four regiments produced from 2010 onward, serving for 25 years, quite an achievable figure)

So now we have:

300 j20 (average figure. it could very well go to 400)
150 j21/31
1100 j10/flankers
100 jh7
50-ish small bombers
50 ?? larger bombers
100-ish h6k?

That figure seems too heavy on the bombers, really. It looks more plausible those small bombers in in fact be jhx and that we might get a bigger number of them, say 100, by 2035.

overall that version might give us something like 150 bombers and 1750 strikers/fighters. Which is a bit of a drop from today, but not too big of a drop. 400 j20 would indeed make the overall figure very close to today's figure and also make chinese air power not lose its numbers like USAF isn't planning to lose its. And that is what plaaf and planaf should aim for, in my opinion. What will come of it is another matter, subject to geopolitics and future economy.
 

Bltizo

Lieutenant General
Staff member
Super Moderator
Registered Member
Bltizo (why not blitzo?) said this in another thread:

"a PLAAF of the mid 2030s should aim for:
400 J-20s
100+ H-18s
40 H-20s
120+ (?) legacy H-6Ks
800-1000 J-10 and flanker variants"

which made me think and write the following:
that's some 1600 combat aircraft. compared to some 1700 that plaaf has today. that in itself seems fine, but i have an inkling feeling the author may have meant plaaf and planaf together, even though he just wrote plaaf. if so, the drop in numbers would be too big.

That is a good point, one which I hadn't considered.
I left out the PLAN's carrierborne fighters -- and for argument's sake we can project that to be some 200+ strong dispersed among 4-5 carriers.
This raises the question of just how the PLANAF will be structured in future once the navy has a few carriers. In any case, I expect their fighter force to be predominantly carrier based. I had included their naval land based bombers with the previous projection.

(Bltizo because when I registered I did a typo. I couldn't log in for ages because I kept putting in the correct spelling. I eagerly anticipate the day SDF allows us to modify our usernames)

300 j20 (average figure. it could very well go to 400)
150 j21/31
1100 j10/flankers
100 jh7
50-ish small bombers
50 ?? larger bombers
100-ish h6k?

That figure seems too heavy on the bombers, really. It looks more plausible those small bombers in in fact be jhx and that we might get a bigger number of them, say 100, by 2035.

overall that version might give us something like 150 bombers and 1750 strikers/fighters. Which is a bit of a drop from today, but not too big of a drop. 400 j20 would indeed make the overall figure very close to today's figure and also make chinese air power not lose its numbers like USAF isn't planning to lose its. And that is what plaaf and planaf should aim for, in my opinion. What will come of it is another matter, subject to geopolitics and future economy.
I'm just describing the large flying wing as H-20 and the supersonic striker as H-18 for ease of comprehension.

The main question we need to ask, is what kind of missions does the PLAAF want to undertake in the future and what is the most cost effective way to do it?
I envision a force of 150 J-21s as... well not quite "redundant" per se, but rather that money could be better spent elsewhere to produce more J-20s or H-18s. J-21 will have the same limits as F-35. Inability to carry large payloads internally across long distances without tanker support. That's one reason why I think F-35 is not the best fit to USAF's requirements in westpac, because it simply doesn't have the range, payload, and endurance to fulfill the missions to conduct sorties well into China without tankers. And remember that tankers are not only vulnerable to air attacks, but also to long range missile strikes or long range stealthy strikers (like H-18) too.
J-21 may find a home aboard PLAN carriers, but I'd hope PLAAF would instead invest more in H-18, H-20 and J-20. SAC may be able to produce a stealthy flanker (J-11D -- like superhornet?) once J-11B, J-16 production ends to fulfill PLAAF's need for more longer range fighters.

In any case 50 H-18s is far too few for the PLA (I assume you also project some 50 H-18s for the PLANAF, in which case I'd find it agreeable)

So to revise the numbers,
PLAAF+land based PLANAF combat aircraft:
400 J-20s
1100 advanced flankers and J-10 variants (J-16, "J-11D," J-10B/C)
100+ H-18s (split between PLAAF and land based PLANAF)
40 H-20s
100+ H-6Ks
100 JH-7As (split between PLAAF and PLANAF)

Carrier based combat aircraft may include:
200+ J-15s and/or J-21s

If PLANAF do indeed go for J-21, PLAAF may find it an attractive prospect as well. But again the big question is cost. If it costs only a little bit more than a late model J-10 variant, then I would argue the PLAAF should procure J-21 instead. If it costs twice as much, then I'd say go for the J-10 and use the difference to invest in more H-18s.
I do foresee the flanker as a continuing integral part of the PLAAF for many years to come, and I think the idea of a J-11D is quite attractive, if the price is right.
At the end of the day, my opinion of J-21 purely depends on its cost, and by association that means its avionics and how comprehensive its stealth capabilities are. We should also consider that a new J-11D or J-10D may field similar level avionics to J-21 but will suffer the double edged sword of not being stealth aircraft, meaning they'll probably have higher sortie rates but naturally will suffer a far larger RCS.


In terms of production:
Xi'an will be occupied with Y-20, H-20, and possibly H-6K, post 2020. (If they produce a regiment of 15 H-6K per year, they could reach 120 airframes in 8 years, aka five or six more years, which would be a perfect time to start H-20 assuming the prototype flies within one or two years)
Chengdu will be occupied with J-20, J-10B/C post 2020
Shenyang will be occupied with H-18, J-16/J-11D, possibly J-15 post 2020

I feel there is still some spare capacity, which may be filled by various UAV programmes. Alternately, there is also room for Chengdu or Shenyang to produce a naval J-20 or J-21 for the navy's 5th gen project, which we should also expect.


We shouldn't ignore Shaanxi either. I expect they'll be busy with producing KJ-500s, GX aircraft of various variants, not to mention vanilla Y-9s for many years.
Ultimately I'd like to see a fleet of maybe 30 AEWC (4 KJ-2000, 12 KJ-200s, and 14 KJ-500s) before PLA slows down AEWC procurement and starts R and D of a new generation of standardized AEWC (hopefully on a civilian jetliner platform). That's not to say we should desire Shaanxi to build a surge of KJ-500s. If anything, the Y-8FQ ASW aircraft is of greater importance, and should aim for a JSDF level of 120 by the time production's ended. Then there are the various ELINT, EW/ECM, command post and ground GX aircraft the PLA needs to become a truly competent and rounded air force, not to mention a need to overhaul and improve their mediocre transport fleet...

If all goes well, by 2035 the PLAAF will be where it finally needs to be to be the air force China needs
 
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