PLAAF Breaking News (including articles with Pictures or videos)


siegecrossbow

Brigadier
Staff member
Super Moderator
If we are talking about J-20As powered by Al-31s or WS-10s, I do not think the capacity of the powerplants is a bottleneck.

Rather, every other aspect of building, inducting, and operating a 5th generation fighter is the bottleneck which requires investment for expansion of capacity and human resources.
I think the current capacity for Taihang engines is around 100 engines a year. Considering that J-16s and J-10Cs are still in production (and J-11Bs will need spares) this puts a cap on how many J-20s they can produce in a year.

As for operation fifth gen fighters, I think that once the pilots in Wuhu are fully acquainted with the plane they can share their operational knowledge with other bases and boost operational capacity.
 

Figaro

Senior Member
Registered Member
I think the current capacity for Taihang engines is around 100 engines a year. Considering that J-16s and J-10Cs are still in production (and J-11Bs will need spares) this puts a cap on how many J-20s they can produce in a year.

As for operation fifth gen fighters, I think that once the pilots in Wuhu are fully acquainted with the plane they can share their operational knowledge with other bases and boost operational capacity.
100 engines a year is pretty low (especially given the number of double engined fighters in the PLAAF) ... are you sure this is still the rate in 2020? I would be surprised if Liming has not expanded their production capacity in recent years, especially given the maturity of the Taihang.
 

Bltizo

Lieutenant General
Staff member
Super Moderator
Registered Member
I think the current capacity for Taihang engines is around 100 engines a year. Considering that J-16s and J-10Cs are still in production (and J-11Bs will need spares) this puts a cap on how many J-20s they can produce in a year.

As for operation fifth gen fighters, I think that once the pilots in Wuhu are fully acquainted with the plane they can share their operational knowledge with other bases and boost operational capacity.
What are you extrapolating the WS-10 production rate from?

And no, even if the annual WS-10 production rate is 100/year, that doesn't mean the engines pose the bottleneck for J-20 production. After all, if engines are the bottleneck, then it would be just a simple matter of taking all of those 100 engines and pausing J-10 and J-10C production and use all of those engines for J-20 production instead.

I believe that the annual WS-10 production rate should be quite a bit higher than 100/year -- but the reason why J-20 production is currently "limited" (e.g.: potentially 30/year going by Henri K's tweet), is because building a 5th generation aircraft and operating it, offers greater complexities than 4th/4+ generation aircraft.
The airframe of a 5th generation aircraft alone is significantly more complex than a 4th gen aircraft, not to mention the additional complexity of systems integration.

When I talk about "operating it" I'm not only talking about pilot experience, but more importantly the entire logistics chain and requisite equipment necessary to operate an aircraft of this complexity.
Read up on the upgrades and new equipment that USAF airbases transitioning to F-35s require -- that is the kind of additional complexity that J-20 will also face.


If the primary limiting factor was engines and the above two factors (scaling up production of the airframe+subsystems/integration, along with costs and complexities of logistics and support) were not prohibitive, then we wouldn't see the PLA "wasting" precious WS-10 engines on J-10Cs and J-16s if they could be used on J-20s instead.
 

Totoro

Captain
VIP Professional
Running along, for the sake of fun, with the rumor of 30 J20 & 80 flanker production this year, getting to 30 produced J20 in 2020 isn't that big of a deal. Even if there were not any pressure from the possible cold war arms race, the rate is fairly comparable to the US programs during the times where there were no such imminent threats.
F-35 first flew at the very end of 2006. First LRIP airframe flight was in february 2011 and deliveries shortly after that moment roughly 4 years later.
during that 5th year since the first flight of the prototype - 9 LRIP airframes were delivered.
6th year saw that jump to 29 airframes delivered.
7th year saw that jump to 35 airframes delivered.

F-22 first flew in 1997. in its third year since then, later two LRIP planes were made. Six more in the fourth year. 10 more in the fifth year and so on. That was a different time though, when there were zero threats and whole F-22 program was seen by many as pointless.
In late 1990s, when 339 F-22s were planned in total, the production plans were: first LRIP starts (not sure if delivered?) in 1999, and by 2004 the rate would have been 36 per year. Of course then further funding cuts came... so six years from first deliveries to 36 per year.

The question of J20 being produced at 30 per year is thus just one of need. If the need is there, and if the political decision is there, the funding will be there as well, and the production bottlenecks are not something unsolvable.

I assume here the first LRIP J20s indeed flew in 2016 (roughly 4 years from now). With the first J20 prototype flying in 2011 that's 9 years from now. At that point, 9 years from the first prototype flight - F35 was at 45 airframes per year. And F-22 would have, based on the prior plans, hit its production plateau of 36 per year two years earlier.

So 30 J20 per year is absolutely within expected range. If not even somewhat weaker result than possibly expected, given the whole Cold War vibe going on.

Also, the fact that rumor did not mention J10 doesn't have to mean anything. Just because something is not mention, doesn't mean it's not there. Actually, I would be absolutely floored if I learned that J10 production ceased, or was even halved. So I do expect J10 production to be chugging along at 40-ish or so airframes per year, that we've seen it do in the recent years.

On the question of flankers' rate (or any other plane for that matter), all we had all these decades is:
1. images of production/batch numbers on airframes. So watching those over a period of time gave us a sense of a production rate.
2. and, as a confirmation coming years later, images of serial numbers and images from various units. So we knew how many new units got new planes within a span of, say, 10 years.

And those two methods worked pretty well for years and years. We do believe we got some fairly precise figures both for J10 and for flankers. Until last two years or so, when the images slowed to a trickle. Insufficient to really do a good track.

so, is it possible that during those two years flanker production skyrocketed? Yes, it's possible. But until we do get some photographic evidence, it's impossible to conclude anything either way. It would be quite a shift, though. As methods used by most people following the new photographs since late 1990s have been quite good at concluding that SAC's own facilities never made more than a regiment, regiment and a half worth of flankers per year. All the way to late 2010s.

The other question is one of requirements. Up until the year 2010 or so, PLAAF and PLANAF combined seemed to have been content with upkeeping a force of roughly 2000 combat planes, judgning on the overall production rate.
During the last 10 yeasr, the production rates have crept upwards. From 80ish to 100 planes per year, overall. And today's flankers and J10s are also possibly expected to fly for longer, EVEN WITH the pilot training hour requirements possibly going up to nearly 100% compare to what they were 20 years ago.

So it may be that chinese air forces have already decided to increase their overall numbers past 2000 airfames.
But hiking up production by 80 additional frames (30 flankers in the past compared to 80 flankers now) after the j20 additon came a few years ago is suddenly suggesting not just 100 combat planes made per year but closer to 160.

That's over three quarters of whole chinese air forces produced in just a single decade.

There's not a lot of J8s to be replaced anymore. Perhaps 150 or so in total, if that. (not counting the Recon variants, as those are likely to be replaced by non-combat aircraft)

Original Su27sk seem to have been retired completely, with perhaps some UBKs left around. Those too, even if they exist, are likely only a dozen or two, dispersed around various units.

J11As are quite newer, being between 21 years and 16 years old now. Those were airframes with strengthened airframes too, compared to Soviet ones, so perhaps some further life could be extracted from those airframes. While they may start getting retired during the next 5 years, I don't believe we'll see them all gone until the year 2030.

Su-30s from Russia will likely be retired in a similar timeframe, perhaps a few years later, if their even more strengthened airframes allow.

Original JH7s are now roughly 20-25 years old and will likely start to see retirement within the next few years; certainly by the end of this decade.

But all those mentioned are just 410 or so airframes, combined. Assuming J10 production replaces exclusively J7s, there's 60 J16 and 30 J20 to replace those 260 airframes. Literally just 4 and a half years worth of production is enough to do that.

Then there are the J11Bs but those are still very new. And are being upgraded, so it's evident China means to keep them for a longer time still. I don't think we'd see even the earliest J11Bs replaced for another dozen years or so. JH7As might fare slightly worse but still 10 years before first retirement is likely. They can do their stand off missile truck mission quite well even if they're old tech. I do see PLAAF getting rid of them sooner than PLANAF.

So that's another 400+ airframes, to be retired from 2030 to 2040.

Of course, ALL those airframes could be retired sooner and simply sold as second hand planes. But in a cold war environment I don't see that as likely. Both the US and Soviets kept their hands on old planes during 1980s, like the F4s and even Mig21s for the Soviets, even though they had newer toys.

Sustaining a jump in production of 160 combat planes for a few years, just to go down soon thereafter is senseless. Either that production is going to stay, as the cold war is perceived as a real threat - or if there is no perception of threat then there'd be no hike in production at all.

So... either the rumor is just some mistranslation (or is not correct) or we will see a prolonged, decade long at least, effort to increase the size of chinese air forces. Which is then likely to stay at the new size of possibly 3000+ combat airframes. And since somehow I don't see US not reacting to such a build up and since US would be likely to increase its arsenal further - there's really no end in sight when it comes to increases. We might be looking at 4000 or higher numbers for chinese air forces by 2050 or so. Wild speculation, i know. But so is everything about the initial rumor.
 

Bltizo

Lieutenant General
Staff member
Super Moderator
Registered Member
Running along, for the sake of fun, with the rumor of 30 J20 & 80 flanker production this year, getting to 30 produced J20 in 2020 isn't that big of a deal. Even if there were not any pressure from the possible cold war arms race, the rate is fairly comparable to the US programs during the times where there were no such imminent threats.
F-35 first flew at the very end of 2006. First LRIP airframe flight was in february 2011 and deliveries shortly after that moment roughly 4 years later.
during that 5th year since the first flight of the prototype - 9 LRIP airframes were delivered.
6th year saw that jump to 29 airframes delivered.
7th year saw that jump to 35 airframes delivered.

F-22 first flew in 1997. in its third year since then, later two LRIP planes were made. Six more in the fourth year. 10 more in the fifth year and so on. That was a different time though, when there were zero threats and whole F-22 program was seen by many as pointless.
In late 1990s, when 339 F-22s were planned in total, the production plans were: first LRIP starts (not sure if delivered?) in 1999, and by 2004 the rate would have been 36 per year. Of course then further funding cuts came... so six years from first deliveries to 36 per year.

The question of J20 being produced at 30 per year is thus just one of need. If the need is there, and if the political decision is there, the funding will be there as well, and the production bottlenecks are not something unsolvable.

I assume here the first LRIP J20s indeed flew in 2016 (roughly 4 years from now). With the first J20 prototype flying in 2011 that's 9 years from now. At that point, 9 years from the first prototype flight - F35 was at 45 airframes per year. And F-22 would have, based on the prior plans, hit its production plateau of 36 per year two years earlier.

So 30 J20 per year is absolutely within expected range. If not even somewhat weaker result than possibly expected, given the whole Cold War vibe going on.

Also, the fact that rumor did not mention J10 doesn't have to mean anything. Just because something is not mention, doesn't mean it's not there. Actually, I would be absolutely floored if I learned that J10 production ceased, or was even halved. So I do expect J10 production to be chugging along at 40-ish or so airframes per year, that we've seen it do in the recent years.

On the question of flankers' rate (or any other plane for that matter), all we had all these decades is:
1. images of production/batch numbers on airframes. So watching those over a period of time gave us a sense of a production rate.
2. and, as a confirmation coming years later, images of serial numbers and images from various units. So we knew how many new units got new planes within a span of, say, 10 years.

And those two methods worked pretty well for years and years. We do believe we got some fairly precise figures both for J10 and for flankers. Until last two years or so, when the images slowed to a trickle. Insufficient to really do a good track.

so, is it possible that during those two years flanker production skyrocketed? Yes, it's possible. But until we do get some photographic evidence, it's impossible to conclude anything either way. It would be quite a shift, though. As methods used by most people following the new photographs since late 1990s have been quite good at concluding that SAC's own facilities never made more than a regiment, regiment and a half worth of flankers per year. All the way to late 2010s.

The other question is one of requirements. Up until the year 2010 or so, PLAAF and PLANAF combined seemed to have been content with upkeeping a force of roughly 2000 combat planes, judgning on the overall production rate.
During the last 10 yeasr, the production rates have crept upwards. From 80ish to 100 planes per year, overall. And today's flankers and J10s are also possibly expected to fly for longer, EVEN WITH the pilot training hour requirements possibly going up to nearly 100% compare to what they were 20 years ago.

So it may be that chinese air forces have already decided to increase their overall numbers past 2000 airfames.
But hiking up production by 80 additional frames (30 flankers in the past compared to 80 flankers now) after the j20 additon came a few years ago is suddenly suggesting not just 100 combat planes made per year but closer to 160.

That's over three quarters of whole chinese air forces produced in just a single decade.

There's not a lot of J8s to be replaced anymore. Perhaps 150 or so in total, if that. (not counting the Recon variants, as those are likely to be replaced by non-combat aircraft)

Original Su27sk seem to have been retired completely, with perhaps some UBKs left around. Those too, even if they exist, are likely only a dozen or two, dispersed around various units.

J11As are quite newer, being between 21 years and 16 years old now. Those were airframes with strengthened airframes too, compared to Soviet ones, so perhaps some further life could be extracted from those airframes. While they may start getting retired during the next 5 years, I don't believe we'll see them all gone until the year 2030.

Su-30s from Russia will likely be retired in a similar timeframe, perhaps a few years later, if their even more strengthened airframes allow.

Original JH7s are now roughly 20-25 years old and will likely start to see retirement within the next few years; certainly by the end of this decade.

But all those mentioned are just 410 or so airframes, combined. Assuming J10 production replaces exclusively J7s, there's 60 J16 and 30 J20 to replace those 260 airframes. Literally just 4 and a half years worth of production is enough to do that.

Then there are the J11Bs but those are still very new. And are being upgraded, so it's evident China means to keep them for a longer time still. I don't think we'd see even the earliest J11Bs replaced for another dozen years or so. JH7As might fare slightly worse but still 10 years before first retirement is likely. They can do their stand off missile truck mission quite well even if they're old tech. I do see PLAAF getting rid of them sooner than PLANAF.

So that's another 400+ airframes, to be retired from 2030 to 2040.

Of course, ALL those airframes could be retired sooner and simply sold as second hand planes. But in a cold war environment I don't see that as likely. Both the US and Soviets kept their hands on old planes during 1980s, like the F4s and even Mig21s for the Soviets, even though they had newer toys.

Sustaining a jump in production of 160 combat planes for a few years, just to go down soon thereafter is senseless. Either that production is going to stay, as the cold war is perceived as a real threat - or if there is no perception of threat then there'd be no hike in production at all.

So... either the rumor is just some mistranslation (or is not correct) or we will see a prolonged, decade long at least, effort to increase the size of chinese air forces. Which is then likely to stay at the new size of possibly 3000+ combat airframes. And since somehow I don't see US not reacting to such a build up and since US would be likely to increase its arsenal further - there's really no end in sight when it comes to increases. We might be looking at 4000 or higher numbers for chinese air forces by 2050 or so. Wild speculation, i know. But so is everything about the initial rumor.

A few things.

1. I agree that we shouldn't read much into the omission of J-10 production. Clearly whatever statement the source made, it was not meant to be exhaustive for the all of the PLA's fighter production types or combat aircraft types. I think that should be a fairly easy thing for everyone to agree on.

2. Regarding J-20 production rate, I don't think it is a simple matter of political will and throwing money at it -- it is also a reflection of industry capability. The ability of the US to produce F-35s at its present rate and their planned cold war era F-22 production rates were all a reflection of the sheer capability of their aerospace industry. China is still very much seeking to close the gap as much as possible, and I suspect that if their current rate is 30 aircraft/year, it is likely a reflection of real aerospace constraints rather than limitations of funding or political will. After all, at a certain point, increasing fundings only result in diminishing returns.

That said, I also agree that 30 aircraft/year is within the expected range for J-20's annual production rate given the length of time between starting LRIP and given the lower starting position of the PRC aerospace industry compared to the US in the past. I expect production rate to increase going forwards of course.

3. Regarding the rumorued Flanker production rate -- if it is true, then I do think it would be a reflection of a desire to expand Chinese aerospace capabilities. We've seen the PLAN's surface combatant fleet increasing in quality but also quantity, I wouldn't be surprised if PLAAF tactical fighter fleet size saw a similar trend. Of course we can attribute this to geopolitical tensions, but at the same time I think the long term plan for the PRC to build a world class military force, and there was only one military in the world they considered with that title.
 

AndrewS

Major
Registered Member
Also, the fact that rumor did not mention J10 doesn't have to mean anything. Just because something is not mention, doesn't mean it's not there. Actually, I would be absolutely floored if I learned that J10 production ceased, or was even halved. So I do expect J10 production to be chugging along at 40-ish or so airframes per year, that we've seen it do in the recent years.
My view is that the J-20 and J-10 are competing for the same resources within CAC.
And that it would make sense to reduce or eliminate new J-10 production in favour of the J-20.
There are already over 400 J-10s in service, and adding more non-stealthy short-range fighters doesn't really help in projecting power.

And it would also make sense to switch orders from the smaller J-10 to the larger J-16, which is larger and longer-ranged.
 

Totoro

Captain
VIP Professional
If anything should compete for same resources it should be J20 and J16. Of course, politics may see it differently, so SAC and CAC may be guaranteed to get the same piece of financial pie.

Which is actually one of many explanations for a possible j16 production hike. With CAC having j10 and j20 production, SAC may've gotten more orders to even things out.

Certainly killing all/most of J10 production just so j20 could be chugging at respectable but quite ordinary 30 airframes per year is nonsensical. Smaller planes are always in some need, there's just not always the need for a twin engine, high operating costs plane for all missions.
 

latenlazy

Colonel
If anything should compete for same resources it should be J20 and J16. Of course, politics may see it differently, so SAC and CAC may be guaranteed to get the same piece of financial pie.

Which is actually one of many explanations for a possible j16 production hike. With CAC having j10 and j20 production, SAC may've gotten more orders to even things out.

Certainly killing all/most of J10 production just so j20 could be chugging at respectable but quite ordinary 30 airframes per year is nonsensical. Smaller planes are always in some need, there's just not always the need for a twin engine, high operating costs plane for all missions.
There might be an interesting in expanding SAC’s capacity in the event that they need to service a J-XY fighter for both the PLA and PLAAF.
 

Totoro

Captain
VIP Professional
Absolutely. If J-XY ends up being some true middle class fighter, then indeed cutting J10 production in favor of that JXY may be sensible. Of course, that'd leave CAC without a huge part of its cake. So either J-20 production (including any possible strike variant) would have to be increased by quite a bit, or CAC would have to get various other projects (like drones?) At that point, the existing J10 fighters might be enough in numbers. The urgency to replace the earliest J10s would not exist. Some could be even replaced by JXY and the rest might be, at a slower pace, replaced by some tentative new single engined fighter. But we're talking already about a timeframe past the year 2030, possibly even past 2035.
 

Inst

Senior Member
The old claim from that investor report claimed around 300 WS-10s produced per year. Looking at it closely, what does 德凯产值预估 mean? The first two characters are impenetrable; Google reveals that it's the name of an European quality assurance company, while the next two word combinations amount to production estimates.
 

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