J-20 5th Generation Fighter VII


AndrewS

Captain
Registered Member
I've been thinking about a command J-20 for a bit and while I was almost partisan to the idea of it supporting J-20s, here's the big problem: scale.

A command J-20 is not the equal of a normal J-20 when it comes to maneuverability, range, speed, and stealth by virtue of having a second operator. Moreover, a command J-20 is intrinsically more expensive than a normal J-20 due to the different occupant accommodations.

So, let's talk about an actual employment. Let's say you have a flight of 4 J-20s, of which one is a command variant.

Does having a 1:3 ratio between command J-20s and frontline pilots work? Well, you're paying more because now you need 5 pilots per 4 planes instead of 4 pilots per 4 planes and the 4th plane is now more expensive. The command J-20, unlike the other J-20s, can't risk itself because it now carries a precious cargo.

What you're doing here is that you're removing about 25-43% of the combat capability of a J-20 flight because you believe that the command J-20 can add more by virtue of providing the commander with command and control facilities on the front line.

This is just shooting fish in a barrel at this scale.

Now let's move to a 中队, or a current PLAAF flight group. 8-10 planes. When you have 8-10 planes, the command and control needs are going to now be more complex, especially since there are now 7-9 pilots under the control of the commander. It looks way better than a flight.

Here, you can actually see that it might be good to have someone specifically manage these pilots at this size, but in reality the flight group is 2 flights with their own commanders. Someone might end up hanging back to protect the command J-20, which can take the capability efficiency from from a low 10-25% to something around 33-50%, around the same as with assigning a command J-20 to a flight.

At the next level, command J-20s start to make more sense. You have roughly 24 planes per brigade, composed of three flight groups with six flights total. But once you hit 24 planes per brigade, why not just bring a KJ-200/300/500/2000/3000 along? You definitely have enough planes in the air to protect them, and the larger radar (about 3x diameter) delivers far superior detection and imaging to a command J-20.

The only advantage at this point is not stealth, as the KJ-200 can be protected, but speed. The J-20s can presumably supercruise, but then what of the command J-20? Is it going to be able to keep up with the other J-20s?
A couple of points to add.

1. An AWACs is at high risk, even if it has an escort of 24 J-20s.
Look at how the Chinese Air Force has very long range SAMs and AAMs, with a range of 250KM+

2. Suppose a command J-20 is responsible for 10 drone fighters like the Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie which is under development?
And/or even hundreds of smaller drones?

Presumably the drones are all conducting air-to-air, air-to-ground and electronic warfare missions.
And cheap drones means combat becomes attritional, which favours the side with huge numbers of drones, which all need to be directed.

So instead of a command J-20 reducing combat capability, it would be adding a lot more combat capability (via drones) to the air group.
It's not just the other J-20s that a command J-20 is responsible for.

3. The performance penalty of a command J-20 is probably only 5-10% less range.
But it doesn't have to spend as much time at afterburner as the other J-20s, which would be conducting most of the air-to-air combat.
Plus a command J-20 would presumably be hanging back to the rear. So it wouldn't need to travel as far, and the extra distanace means its stealthiness is still acceptable.


So my view is that *development of airborne combat drones* is what will drive a 2-seater Command J-20, with the other roles such as training and EW being insufficient reason.
 

Inst

Senior Member
Cheap drones do not necessarily mean that combat becomes attritional, because you have to consider the trend toward missile spam, the F-15EX can carry 22 A2A missiles. When the game shifts to micromissiles, replace 22 AMRAAMs with 44 Sidewinder equivalents or 88 sub-Sidewinder equivalents.

As far as AEW&C goes, AEW&C is defendable as long as its detection range is long enough, i.e, stealth aircraft can be put to picket for the AEW&C.

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I think the notion which people are obsessed with right now is the drone controller role. The thing is, the Su-57, the F-35, and so on, are all being slated to have drone controller roles. I'm just of the view that having every aircraft in your formation be capable of drone control instead of having a single fighter dedicate itself to drone control is more feasible because you don't end up creating a single target to be jammed or destroyed.
 

Inst

Senior Member
Absolutely, the burden of proof is on the party arguing against the null hypothesis.
Sarcasm noted?

Put another way, the J-20 is known to have AESA radars slated for it as well as EODAS. Parsimoniously we can assume that:

#1, the AESA and EODAS are not operational.
#2, at some date the AESA and EODAS will likely be operational.
 

Inst

Senior Member
Of course, this is assuming the stealth and maneuverability of this twin seater aircraft is significantly compromised to a degree such thatit cannot be sensibly mitigated by having the aircraft operate moderately behind the frontline of the rest of your single seaters.

As I wrote before, if your twin seater is able to retain the vast majority of the VLO and A2A characteristics of a single seater but capable of exerting multiple times the command/control capability of a single seater, would such an exchange of capabilities make sense?
I'll point out something very simple. Where are the drones? China has no evidence of A2A "loyal wingman" type drones in service. On the other hand, China has a couple of hundred Flankers in the air and a couple of hundred J-10s. At a later point drone control might end up being a mission of a twin-seater, but if you have the overwhelming drone numbers (10 to an aircraft), you no longer really need the J-20 for conventional fighter operations at all. In this circumstance, it now makes more sense to have single seaters go to an auto-pilot and drone control function instead of being escorts for a twin-seat drone controller.

You have to expect the twin-seater to be built for capabilities the Chinese already have, and the easiest role for a "command" J-20 is 4th (3rd in Chinese parlance) generation aircraft support and escort.
 

Inst

Senior Member
Here's the working assessment:

The J-20 is a twin-seater developed to be a twin-seater, as it opens up avenues for further development (EW, AEW&C, drone control, strike, etc). It is slated to have command roles, but without functioning drones available it will likely end up commanding 4th gens and offering sensor and command support to 4th gens first.

Later on, it may be developed to a drone control platform. The bone I'll toss you is simple; a J-20 twin-seater already optimized for command is best suited for drone control R&D. The risk involved in developing drone control systems is LEAST when you begin with a J-20 twin-seater, as the challenges for a J-20 that already has AEW&C functions via C2 for J-11s is less than putting drone control functions into a normal J-20, as you already have an interface optimized for it.

The next stage of development for drone control is then to move the drone control into standard fighter-type J-20s, as this provides the best redundancy at a partial trade-off in efficiency. We may end up with a situation wherein fighter-type J-20s co-exist with drone-control J-20s, but fighter-type J-20s controlling drones still works better than dedicated drone-control J-20s at almost all scales.

If drones are present in small numbers, the challenge of controlling a few sensor drones and missile drones is insufficient to justify the use of dedicated drone control J-20s, except if the drone control J-20s are already legacyware. In the medium scale, of course, you may end up in a situation where each pilot is controlling a few drones as adjuncts to their direct combat function, but this might be better handled by drone control J-20s given that the number of drones is beyond that of a single pilot to manage.

At large scales, with a full shift to a drone paradigm, however, we go back to a single seater J-20 as the primary role of a J-20 pilot is no longer as an A2A specialist but as a full-time drone controller. A single-seat J-20 could end up being escorted by tens of drones. The single-seat J-20 could end up being replaced by drone control frames altogether as drones are now more valuable than the J-20.

===

In any case, the J-20 command variant is unlikely to be dedicated to drone control at the initial stage simply because the drones are not yet ready. The J-11s are. Focusing on J-11 C2 is the minimal development risk, with drone control variants later spinning out of the J-20 twin-seaters simply because it's the platform best suited to drone control development.
 

Deino

Lieutenant General
Staff member
Super Moderator
Registered Member
Sarcasm noted?

Put another way, the J-20 is known to have AESA radars slated for it as well as EODAS. Parsimoniously we can assume that:

#1, the AESA and EODAS are not operational.
#2, at some date the AESA and EODAS will likely be operational.

Maybe I miss the joke if it is one, but why do you think the J-20 has no operational AESA radar and EODAS yet? Or do I miss the joke?
 

Inst

Senior Member
Maybe I miss the joke if it is one, but why do you think the J-20 has no operational AESA radar and EODAS yet? Or do I miss the joke?
The operating term is parsimonious, which is that we doubt all information unless strong evidence is provided.

We know that:

-The J-20 has AESA being slated for it, and there is no PESA seemingly available for it.
-The DoD claims that the J-20 is having teething problems with its AESA.
-The J-20 has EODAS apertures as well as export advertisements for its EODAS system, which is claimed to achieve a 100-135 km range vs F-22s and F-35s.
-The American EODAS system had tremendous teething problems and we are yet unsure as to whether the F-35's EODAS works.

Consequently, taking a parsimonious approach, what we can conclude is that the J-20 is designed to have AESA and EODAS, but we are uncertain as to whether the AESA and EODAS are fully operational.

The strong evidence (Popperian falsifiability) needed would be:

-The Chinese state that the AESA on the J-20 is fully operational.
-The Chinese state that the EODAS on the J-20 is fully operational.

The AESA maturity is far different than the EODAS maturity, of course.

The EODAS represents a drastic change in capabilities from existing fighters as it presents 360 degree EO / IR coverage, even if only at limited ranges (the IRST on both the F-35 and J-20 can be expected to be more capable than the EODAS apertures due to greater size allowing for more powerful optics). We could expect the Chinese media to brag about the EODAS were it to achieve full functionality sensor fusion as the F-35 is supposed to reach. That has not yet happened.

The AESA, on the other hand, we know that the Chinese have multiple AESAs in development and that the J-10C, the J-16, and the J-15 all sport AESA radars. The J-11D which seems to have been canceled is supposed to be an AESA fighter as well. It is reasonable to assume that the J-20 AESA is at least on the level of the J-16 AESA, which implies that it may be experiencing teething issues, but is otherwise operational.
 
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ougoah

Captain
Registered Member
LOL Inst if you cannot see the problems with your assumptions, I suggest you stop making a fool of yourself now and just quit while you're here.

You've constructed a make belief structure of PLAAF of what it has and doesn't have in Feb 2020 based on your own personal suppositions. Then you have made a set of predictions for future platforms based on this structure. Please show us how you know about these AESA/PESA and EODAS service nonsense you've convinced yourself of. That I'm actually curious about.
 

Inst

Senior Member
LOL Inst if you cannot see the problems with your assumptions, I suggest you stop making a fool of yourself now and just quit while you're here.

You've constructed a make belief structure of PLAAF of what it has and doesn't have in Feb 2020 based on your own personal suppositions. Then you have made a set of predictions for future platforms based on this structure. Please show us how you know about these AESA/PESA and EODAS service nonsense you've convinced yourself of. That I'm actually curious about.
Lijian is likely active service (air-to-ground subsonic strike UCAV). Anjian is not.

Put another way, the Chinese aren't the Americans. The Americans did a retarded moonshot attempt with the F-35 with the platform coming into service years late. The Chinese are iterative working based off their experience with the Su-27 platform (best development program) and the J-10 platform (better aircraft design). It is possible that the drone maturity is such that it makes rational sense for the J-20 twin-seater to be immediately developed into a drone controller, but it is still lower risk for the J-20 to do C2 functions for J-11s first than to immediately jump to drone control when the Anjian etc aren't ready yet.

Remember, a twin-seat command J-20 only requires an interface, a datalink, and a twin-seat modification. A drone controlling twin-seat J-20 requires an interface, a datalink, a twin-seat modification, as well as drone control protocols. Logically, we'll see the twin-seat J-11 command J-20 in the air before we'll see a drone-control twin-seat J-20 in the air, even if the twin-seat J-11 command J-20 is only a development prototype with only the drone-controller seeing mass production.

On the AESA mode, as I've said before, there is a range of belief we can assume. If you've read the Zhuangzi, you know damn well we could conclude we're all butterflies being dreamed by Zhuangzi and nothing in epistemology can say this is DEFINITIVELY false. On the other hand, we can take ever more aggressive assumptions. The least aggressive assumption is that the J-20 is AESA and EODAS slated, but we are uncertain as to the operational readiness of these systems, with greater doubt to the J-20's EODAS systems. More aggressive (faithful) assumptions are that the AESA and EODAS already work at 100% operational capability. The faithful assumptions are slightly fanboyish, but not outside the bounds of reasonable belief.
 

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