Future PLA combat aircraft composition


caohailiang

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It isn’t throwing money away to produce more J-16s. China still needs to replace hundreds of legacy J-7/8s and J-16 is better suited for multi role operations due to larger payload. Fifth gen are also expensive to operate. Considering that among China’s neighbors, only South Korea and Japan are operating fifth gens, it isn’t economical for China to go for full fifth gen fleet. Even the U.S. is purchasing new F-15s.
You mentioned many separate points in just a few words, my 2 cents:
1, i think we should rethink the claim of J16 being multi-role, given the fact of 5th-gen proliferation in east Asia. I don't have the exact number off the top my head but by 2030, F35 operated by US PACOM+Japan+SK would probably be in the range of 500~1000? Do we really expect J16 be able to carry out air superiority mission in such an environment by then?
2, then if China plan to use J16 primarily as a striker in high end conflict, does it provide better capability compare to J20? Well, consider the fact J20 can carry large amount of external payload, it probably can be just as good as J16 as a striker, if not better. So seriously, the real multirole aircraft here is J20.
3, some may argue J20 is more expensive and harder to maintain, first i am curious how much more expensive we are talking about? and if you consider the absolute air superiority here, J20 probably has much better cost effectiveness.
4, with regard to the replacement of older fleet or the need to keep the PLAAF at a certain size, wouldn't it be more reasonable to replace them with J10c which has a lower cost yet still effective in low-end conflict?
5, as to other theater such as southwest, do we really need more brand new 4th gen airframes just for that? After all, the current 4th gen fleet is already quite sizable and still very young.

And no, i dont think this is comparable to recent F15 order because for USAAF, majority of the purchase is on F35 now, while PLAAF seems to be still purchasing J16 (>48 yearly?) at a quite high rate and J20 at a quite low rate(<24 yearly?). If that is the case the only explanation to me is J20 still has some technical difficulties to be really mass produced, so they have no choice but to settle for the next best option - J16, in order to ramp up for short term threat, although that option is much much inferior.
 

caohailiang

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Well I think it would be like how special forces soldiers, equipment, and training are far superior to typical infantry. You see where this is going.

The J-10s and J-16s can be built faster, cheaper, and they both carry greater payloads. They're also good enough for many threats.
the point is, are there really that many serious threat out there, other than USAAF? How effective will these newly produced J16 and J10 be up against USAAF in 10 years?
 

plawolf

Brigadier
Not even the USAF is going full stealth anymore, with its continued purchase of more F15s, not to mention all others. Yes, there will be a lot of hostile 5th gens, but there will also be a lot of legacy stuff flying around as well.

Stealth fighters are a ‘first day of war’ weapon, in that they are most effective against an enemy at full strength. They are the tip of the spear, but you also need a strong shaft behind the spear for best effect. Too much focus on stealth only would mean you have a narrow and shallow forge structure. Best case that’s a massive waste as you start handing heavy weapons loads externally on your stealths, making them very expensive bomb trucks; worst case, you get outnumbered and outgunned and overwhelmed.

We need to remember that the one weakness of 5th gens is weapons load. Even heavyweights like the J20 and F22 could only carry 6 full sized BVRAAMs. There are programmes to add more, but that comes at the cost of reduced size, with corresponding reduced performance from a lack of warhead (lower KP) and range.

J16s could not only carry additional missiles, but much bigger ones. Thereby they could stay well back and be outside of F22/F35 AMRAAM range, but still be able to engage using co-operative engagement to leverage the full range potential of the latest and future planned Chinese monster AAMs.

Modern stealth works by redirecting most of the incoming radar energy so it does not return to the emitter, but that radar energy still goes somewhere. With a large number of J16s airborne and networking, they would also potentially work as a massive distributed radar network to counteract stealth by making it difficult if not impossible for enemy stealth fighters to approach without redirecting radar energy to another J16.

If you factor in J20s also passively hunting in the mix, and it becomes even more difficult for enemy fighters to plan an effective approach, as they don’t know if any gaps in the network are real gaps or traps with J20s waiting to pounce.

In addition, superior numbers gives you options to exhaust your opponent. If you vastly outnumber your opponent, you can afford to send up a massive fighter wave, forcing an enemy full scramble, only to turn that fighter wave back before they could be engaged and send another, fresh one at a target far away that the enemy now could not effectively muster to counter.

Hell, just look at the peacetime trolling the PLAAF have been doing to the Japanese, forcing record numbers of scrambles and literally running their pilots and planes ragged. They could do the same once F35s are in the region.

Those are just a few obvious examples, and there are many more benefits to having legacy as well as 5th gens. That’s why even the USAF is belatedly coming around and quietly dropping their plans for an all stealth force.
 

crash8pilot

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5th gen J20 clears up the sky with BVR stealth so that J16s can roll in to knock the door down after, while other 4th gen J10 + J11 perform counterair sweep/AWACS+Tanker escort mission. With that game plan in mind, don't think the PLAAF need a large amount of 5th gen fighters to clear up the sky :)
 

silentlurker

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5th gen J20 clears up the sky with BVR stealth so that J16s can roll in to knock the door down after, while other 4th gen J10 + J11 perform counterair sweep/AWACS+Tanker escort mission. With that game plan in mind, don't think the PLAAF need a large amount of 5th gen fighters to clear up the sky :)
My question is, at this point does Chima have enough J20s to clear the sky? Isn't that putting the cart beforr the horse

Also tangentially related, would it be feasable to have an ultrastealth plane with minimum weapons and lots of passive sensors to cue in PL20s from non-stealth platforms?
 

ougoah

Captain
Registered Member
How do we know that WS-10 production is not sufficient given the current demand? It would be extremely surprising if Shenyang did not expand the production line in advance knowing that the J-10 and J-20 were going to be switching over to Taihangs. I find it difficult to believe the bottleneck is in the engine production rather than the production of the aircrafts themselves.
Sure perhaps it is. My point is to say that J-16s are definitely not being made just so that they can make use of some mountain of surplus WS-10 that doesn't exist. WS-10 production rate is certainly dependent on J-16 and J-10 production rates. They're not going to go crazy and just mass produce as many WS-10 as they can build. It's going to be; fill a J-16 and J-10 service life and spares and backups.
 

Totoro

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While not ALL newly produced planes should be stealth ones, it would likely be more combat effective and ultimately cost effective to produce a greater number of stealth planes than what is being introduced right now, for the PLA.

US is currently producing some ~110 stealth planes (F-35) and ~20 non stealth planes per year. (Superhornet and F-15)
After 2025 that will morph into: ~140 stealth planes (F-35 and B-21) and 15-20 non stealth planes (F-15 only)

PLA procurement right now is something like 20 stealth planes and 85 non stealth planes per year. Give or take.
After 2025 that might change slightly. 40-50 stealth planes (including some J-31 and H-20?) and 70-ish non stealth ones?

While no one is calling for a pure stealth force, it probably would be wise for PLA to ramp up stealth plane procurement quickly, and to a much larger volume than it's currently paced at.

Right now I don't see PLA procuring more stealth planes than non-stealth ones before end of 2020s. Unless something fundamentally changes.
 

caohailiang

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Right now I don't see PLA procuring more stealth planes than non-stealth ones before end of 2020s. Unless something fundamentally changes.
Agree to almost all your points but would you mind elaborating your reasoning of above statement? I mean we are still 10 years away from end of 2020s, difficult to believe PLA would still produce any non stealth fighter at all by then
 

caohailiang

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US is currently producing some ~110 stealth planes (F-35) and ~20 non stealth planes per year. (Superhornet and F-15)
After 2025 that will morph into: ~140 stealth planes (F-35 and B-21) and 15-20 non stealth planes (F-15 only)

PLA procurement right now is something like 20 stealth planes and 85 non stealth planes per year. Give or take.
One more point i would like to make is that US has an aged fleet of 4th gen a/c while that of PLA is still very young.
Given current rate and mix of procurement, plus gradual retirement of current 4th gen a/c, US can reach a reasonable mix of 4th gen and 5th gen in early 2030s. While in the PLA case, if they dont want to sit on a huge number of outdated yet young 4th gen a/c in 2035, they need to reduce the procurement of them fairly quickly.
 

Totoro

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This is a copy paste from the J-20 thread. So the discussion can be continued here.

Right now we know about the navy contracting new, stealth fighter. That'd be the notational J-31. We have no news yet that the air force wants J-31. Which means the air force has the following at its disposal:
J-20, which is not likely to be produced at more than 40 or so per year even at its highest. That's the rate of J10 production, which is supposed to be a cheap-ish plane for mass production.
J-31 for the navy is likely going to be capped at 10 or 15 per year. There's no demand for more as carriers can be built only so quickly, UNLESS there will be new ground based navy units standing up, which will also feature J-31s. Existing ground based navy units all have quite recently produced planes so they won't need replacements. Either that or they have JH7 strikers which are quite specific in their role and can't be really replaced by J-31.

J-31 variant MAY be decided upon by the air force as well. But even IF that happens, who knows WHEN it could happen. Maybe the decision won't come before 2025. Which is, coincidentally, pretty much the earliest the navy variant may see first units standing up. And that's providing the next 5 years of development are lightning fast and that there is no big difference between 00031 demonstrators and the serial J-31. If a decision comes by 2025, again a few years will pass until air force starts getting new planes.

J-31 in its current form is not a good replacement for all the remaining air force planes. It lacks range and is likely more expensive to procure and run than a J-10.

A single engined stealth plane maybe waited for by the air force. IF that happens, it means no such plane before 2030 at the earliest.

JH7 replacement is needed but it may be a J16.
It may also be a whole new plane. Probably stealth one then. But that'd mean, even if we see a prototype fly in 2021 (dubious, as there'd be more chatter incoming in the years before the first flight) actual production volume would unlikely be more than 20 per year before end of 2020s. Developing planes just takes a long time.

H20 might start serial production after 2025 but as it's a bomber, and there are plenty of new H6K to go around, overall production volume is most likely going to be under a dozen per year.

So J10 (in some new variant) and J16 are still the best bet for mass production in the next 5 years. J20 might ramp up and might even get a whole new variant (to be fielded in strike role in place of JH7, JH-XX or further J16) but such a variant would again take 5+ years to appear after first evidence of development. J-20 numbers per year are bound to increase either way - but I find it unlikely Chengdu would be given two thirds of the entire production (J20 and J10), and Shenyang and Xian to pick up the crumbs. Politics of the production distribution don't work that way. That's evident even in the US.
 

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