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Chinese Stealth Fighter Jet May Use US Technology 339

Posted by Soulskill
from the better-to-be-lucky-than-good dept.
Ponca City writes "In 1999, a US F-117 Nighthawk was downed by a Serbian anti-aircraft missile during a bombing raid. It was the first time one of the fighters had been hit, and the Pentagon blamed clever tactics and sheer luck. The pilot ejected and was rescued. Now, the Guardian reports that pieces of the wrecked F-117 stealth fighter ended up in the hands of foreign military attaches. 'At the time, our intelligence reports told of Chinese agents crisscrossing the region where the F-117 disintegrated, buying up parts of the plane from local farmers,' says Admiral Davor Domazet-Loso, Croatia's military chief of staff during the Kosovo war. 'We believe the Chinese used those materials to gain an insight into secret stealth technologies... and to reverse-engineer them.' Zoran Kusovac says the Serbian regime routinely shared captured western equipment with its Chinese and Russian allies. 'The destroyed F-117 topped that wish-list for both the Russians and Chinese,' says Kusovac."
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Chinese Stealth Fighter Jet May Use US Technology

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  • by MrEricSir (398214) on Monday January 24, 2011 @07:44PM (#34988464) Homepage

    ...is a pirated copy of Windows 7 they bought in a Shanghai alley.

  • If true... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday January 24, 2011 @07:45PM (#34988470) Journal
    It seems only fair to ask whoever just had to take the shiny toy out for a spin whether it was worth it for Serbia?
    • Re:If true... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ThunderBird89 (1293256) <zalanmeggyesi@ya ... m minus math_god> on Monday January 24, 2011 @08:01PM (#34988652)

      The F-117 was used in the Serbian conflict because it had the ability to make quick, stealthy precision strikes on the Serbian air command, paving the way for the heavy cavalry to move in and decimate the ground forces.

      As a Hungarian, I'm also pleased that the one and only time the Goblin was downed was at the hands of a Hungarian commander, one Zoltán Dani, who used an old modified Russian radar unit operating at very long wavelengths to defeat the F-117's stealth capability, and used manual guidance on the missiles along with several spotters who reported the flight path.

      As for the new Chinese stealth fighter, it's reported to be an even match for the Raptor, and used designs on a Lockheed HDD that was not wiped before being sold overseas. I wonder what else remained on that drive, though...

      • Re:If true... (Score:5, Informative)

        by peragrin (659227) on Monday January 24, 2011 @08:24PM (#34988864)

        You do realize that not only that but the F-117's were restricted to a very specific flight pattern flying over the exact same pass day and night over and over again.

        He may have used some old equipment that had a different radar freq, but he also got lucky that Political stupidity played a major role(flights into and out of the region where very limited, which areas they could and couldn't fly over).

        The Chinese fighter is larger and heavier than the Raptor. It doesn't use thrust vectoring nozzles, or even distributed nozzles to limit heat output by the engines. it is only stealthy head on, from any other angle it will be easy to spot. Those giant canards will also turn a very large radar reflection back too. It uses old school radar so it will be easy to track. All in all it isn't a bad attempt at an updated fighter for china, but it is two or three generations from being capable as the Typhon or raptor.

        Not to mention this is the initial test flight. it will be ten years before they have decent production going. remember the raptor's flight demo for the USAF was in 1991, and the first production model flew in 1997.

        • by Suki I (1546431)

          You do realize that not only that but the F-117's were restricted to a very specific flight pattern flying over the exact same pass day and night over and over again.

          He may have used some old equipment that had a different radar freq, but he also got lucky that Political stupidity played a major role(flights into and out of the region where very limited, which areas they could and couldn't fly over).

          The Chinese fighter is larger and heavier than the Raptor. It doesn't use thrust vectoring nozzles, or even distributed nozzles to limit heat output by the engines. it is only stealthy head on, from any other angle it will be easy to spot. Those giant canards will also turn a very large radar reflection back too. It uses old school radar so it will be easy to track. All in all it isn't a bad attempt at an updated fighter for china, but it is two or three generations from being capable as the Typhon or raptor.

          Not to mention this is the initial test flight. it will be ten years before they have decent production going. remember the raptor's flight demo for the USAF was in 1991, and the first production model flew in 1997.

          Awesome! The secret stuff they did not have before they now have because of you!

          Oh, /. is blocked in China? Sorry, never mind ;)

          • Good news - /. is not blocked in China.

            I am posting from Shanghai and can confirm that /. has not been blocked here for more than five years.

            • by bsDaemon (87307) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @10:33AM (#34993666)

              /. is not blocked in China.

              Tiananmen squareTiananmen square Tiananmen square Tiananmen square Tiananmen square Tiananmen square Tiananmen square Dalai lama Dalai lamaDalai lama Dalai lama Dalai lama Dalai lama Dalai lama Dalai lama Free Tibet!

              There, fixed that for you

        • Re:If true... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by UnknowingFool (672806) on Monday January 24, 2011 @11:58PM (#34990396)
          From the appearance, the J-20 copies much of the geometry of the F-22 and F-35. It appears that the Chinese got some materials technology from the downed F-117 Nighthawk. The canards and the exhaust show what they haven't been able to copy: Advanced fly-by-wire technology. The F-117, B-2, F-22, and F-35 all are aerodynamically unstable by themselves. It takes very sophisticated flight computers to make constant but minute corrections to keep these planes in the air. Instead of being able to replicate this, the Chinese seem to used the low tech approach of canards. The exhaust also could be a side effect of not having this advantage.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dakameleon (1126377)

          Not to mention this is the initial test flight. it will be ten years before they have decent production going. remember the raptor's flight demo for the USAF was in 1991, and the first production model flew in 1997.

          This is China - in 2004, they didn't have a high-speed rail network worth the name. In 2010, they had approximately 10,000km built. If they want it next year, they'll get it alright.

          • Re:If true... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by jambox (1015589) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @07:02AM (#34992158)
            Nonsense. Laying train tracks is a well-understood process and can be done at any rate providing you have enough engineers, labourers and money. Building a next-generation multi-role fighter is completely different because you're trying to make a single extremely complicated item, with a view to some day manufacturing a few hundred.
      • Re:If true... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Monday January 24, 2011 @08:44PM (#34989016)

        Its been "reported" that its a match for the F-22, but the fact is that it's only flown a handful of times in very limited envelopes. Theres really no way to tell what this aircraft is capable of and how good it's technology is.

        If it's really based on the F-117A, then the stealth technology is at least a full generation behind F-22, and less capable than what Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon have, not to mention F-22A and F-35 and modern UAVs and UCAV prototypes have.

        F-22s capabilities are because of 12 years of test program and refinements of software, the new Chinese fighter is basically were YF-22 and YF-23 were in 1990-91 were or where X-35 and X-32 were in 2000-01.

        Plus we don't know the sensor capability of this new aircraft, it's data link capabilities, range, speed, armament.

        Its years too early to say it's a match for F-22, F-35, Typhoon or Rafale

      • Re:If true... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by grcumb (781340) on Monday January 24, 2011 @08:47PM (#34989034) Homepage Journal

        The F-117 was used in the Serbian conflict because it had the ability to make quick, stealthy precision strikes on the Serbian air command, paving the way for the heavy cavalry to move in and decimate the ground forces.

        When I visited Belgrade some years ago, I was told by someone in a position to know that US planes were actually kept away from the most demanding targets. Apparently, it was mostly the French (gasp!) who accounted for the strikes in downtown Belgrade. Their handiwork was impressive, to say the least: The Ministry of Defence building was completely destroyed, falling in on itself, while neighbouring buildings sported only a few nicks from flying debris.

        The US were responsible for at least one raid in Belgrade itself. But more about that in a moment....

        As a Hungarian, I'm also pleased that the one and only time the Goblin was downed was at the hands of a Hungarian commander, one Zoltán Dani, who used an old modified Russian radar unit operating at very long wavelengths to defeat the F-117's stealth capability, and used manual guidance on the missiles along with several spotters who reported the flight path.

        At least some parts of the wreckage must have made it into the Chinese hands. That would account for the *cough* tragically mistaken bombing [wikimedia.org] of the their Embassy. (The US knew what it was doing. If you don't think that NATO had spotters on the ground, you too are tragically mistaken.)

      • Fear sells weapons (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sjbe (173966) on Monday January 24, 2011 @08:58PM (#34989132)

        As for the new Chinese stealth fighter, it's reported to be an even match for the Raptor...

        You mean the J-20 which is due to be operational 6-8 YEARS from now [wikipedia.org]? Most of what is "known" about it is just speculation based on some very limited information. Most performance projections are going to be pure conjecture until more information is available.

        As for matching the F-22, did it occur to you that the folks selling the F-22 might have a vested interest in proclaiming this jet to be competitive with the F-22? Fear is a great way to sell weapons. It's certainly possible to design a jet to match the F-22, but its not remotely clear that this Chinese jet reaches or will reach that level of performance.

      • Re:If true... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by c6gunner (950153) on Monday January 24, 2011 @09:54PM (#34989604)

        Eh. Dani tells a nice story, but it's rather short on details. The "long wavelengths" explanation comes from a guy at Jane's Magazine, and it's pure conjecture. There's really no evidence that any part of his story is true, although it seems plausible. Given that Serb source were reporting dozens of aircraft shot down while the war was ongoing, I fail to see any reason to give them much credence in this case.

        As other have pointed out, though, even if true, his story shows that the shoot-down was as much a result of luck as skill. He had to wait for just the right circumstance - lack of supporting aircraft including Prowler jammers, shit weather, aircrew over-confidence - before he could get a successful kill. And the figures for the rest of the war show the same; with only 2 or 3 NATO aircraft lost during the entire campaign, there's no doubt that Serb anti-air assets were largely irrelevant. As I said, it's a neat story, but there's not much there for you to be proud of.

        As for the new Chinese fighter, it's reported to fly on pixy dust and fire laser-rainbows. Until we see some real data, I'm not buying it.

      • by wagnerrp (1305589)

        As for the new Chinese stealth fighter, it's reported to be an even match for the Raptor

        Everything I've seen released about that aircraft seems to indicate it is in fact not a fighter, but rather an attack bomber, similar to an F-111 or Tornado. They have attack radars, and can fire air-to-air missiles, but won't cut it in a dogfight with a fighter.

    • by Suki I (1546431)

      It seems only fair to ask whoever just had to take the shiny toy out for a spin whether it was worth it for Serbia?

      Just a wild guess here, but I think whomever was driving was ordered by someone in a five-sided building in Virginia.

    • Re:If true... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by gad_zuki! (70830) on Monday January 24, 2011 @08:02PM (#34988666)

      Youd be foolish not to use it to take out anti-aircraft, power stations, tank formations, etc or anything that is a threat to conventional units. Not to mention you get to see it in live combat, build experience, and see its limitations. The real problem was that it was taken out under conditions stealth doesnt work right like in the rain.

      I'm pretty skeptical that these pieces could really have led to a stealth fighter. Stealth tech isn't that tough to figure out and I'm sure the most you can gain from these pieces is what materials were used. If your country has a run-away military budget like the US fdoes you can make all the stleath you want. For reference the US's budget is 10x China's. If anything, why dont we have nicer toys? Oh right, the waste, pork, cronyism, etc that typifies the military-industrial complex.

      As a side note, you gotta be shititng me about slashdots new commenting system. It took 5 minutes to reply to this, paste doesnt work in chrome, its ugly as sin, and probably the worst commenting system on the web. Just rollback to the old one please. Slashdot isnt ready for web 2.0.

      • Don't fret, it isn't much better in firefox, and it's impossible to use IE. I'm not sure what browser they tested with, must be opera.

      • by adolf (21054)

        Slashdot changed commenting systems again?

        *shrug*

        I'm still using the old, old one, with real links and no glitz. Works fine, with no Web 2.0 to speak of, just like it has for over a decade....

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          I was using the new one for a while but when you get a lot of comments then the whole thing goes to heck. I'm back to the classic of classics and it's a peach. I could swear I lost the ability to turn it on for a while but maybe I was temporarily stupid. (Bring on the jokes, I can take it. And the seriouses too.)

      • .... It took 5 minutes to reply to this, paste doesnt work in chrome, its ugly as sin, and probably the worst commenting system on the web. Just rollback to the old one please. Slashdot isnt ready for web 2.0.

        Yeah, paste sucks in chrome. I've found that if you right click and hit paste, it works, but not if you ctrl+v. Or maybe its the other way around.

        But the system is wacky. It blows me away that a tech blog can't even come out with a text entry system that doesn't test properly in one of the most popular browsers (and probably the single most popular browser for users of this site).

        The whole point of improving comment systems is to improve discourse, but now I don't cite my sources on things because I can't c

      • I'm pretty skeptical that these pieces could really have led to a stealth fighter. Stealth tech isn't that tough to figure out

        No, it's not tough to figure out stealth. But it is a stone cold bitch to design, engineer, produce, and maintain.

        I'm sure the most you can gain from these pieces is what materials were used

        Which, in and of itself, is pretty valuable information. We all know it's skin is made of "carbon composite", but that's kinda like saying the body of an automobile is made of "metal".

      • Re:If true... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Graff (532189) on Monday January 24, 2011 @09:34PM (#34989464)

        I'm pretty skeptical that these pieces could really have led to a stealth fighter. Stealth tech isn't that tough to figure out and I'm sure the most you can gain from these pieces is what materials were used.

        There's actually quite a bit of complicated technology to stealth fighters or everyone would have had them by now.

        First of all there's the chemistry of the ablative coatings used on the equipment. They have to absorb wavelengths, prevent infrared emissions from the aircraft, scatter radar in a certain manner, and still be light, adhere well, provide corrosion resistance, and so on.

        There's also specific angles for stuff like air intakes, exhaust nozzles, instrumentation, etc. so you have as little backscatter on radar as possible. Some of the concepts are simple but tricky to implement in an vehicle that still needs to be aerodynamic and efficient in flight. These aircraft also use special alloys for various purposes and pieces of the aircraft would be great for reverse engineering those alloys.

        All this stuff still has to be able to fly and there's a lot of engineering involved in designing the control surfaces, not to mention the computerized and fly-by-wire systems needed to stabilize a craft which is not as easy to control as a non-stealth aircraft.

        So yeah, there's a lot of technology for someone to capture.

      • So, go back to the older version. There's an option in preferences somewhere. I hated the new comment system too. Funny how /. sent me an e-mail, with an link(?) [can't remember], a few months ago on why I was still using the old one. :P

  • My first though when I heard of the Chinese Stealth Fighter is I wonder where and how they stole the technology. No way China could build one themselves at this point without a little help. Not saying that they could not have built on further in the future on their own; only saying this was really quick.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by amicusNYCL (1538833)

      This shouldn't be a newsworthy headline. This is what a newsworthy headline would look like:

      "Chinese Stealth Fighter Uses Only Chinese Technology"

      • by Suki I (1546431)

        This shouldn't be a newsworthy headline. This is what a newsworthy headline would look like:

        "Chinese Stealth Fighter Uses Only Chinese Technology"

        The Onion version: "Chinese Stealth Fighter Uses Only North Korean Technology"

      • Just like all the herbal medicine that keeps their population down to the billions instead of trillions.

        Your right, the people Western world would never be idiotic enough to stock expensive alternative medicines on the high streets that have no beneficial side effects other than that of a similarly administered placebo.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeopathy [wikipedia.org]

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        This is the funniest comment at least this week. You are awarded hounding by the 50-cent party.

    • Re:No surprise (Score:4, Informative)

      by icebike (68054) on Monday January 24, 2011 @08:02PM (#34988672)

      The 117 is old hat, and was never all that stealthy.

      The new Chinese J20 fighter [ausairpower.net] reported recently is based on features found on much later US and Russian designs, and bears little resemblance to the F117.

      Technology stolen would probably include anti-radar coatings and perhaps engine and avionics.

      The J20 is simply too big to be very stealthy.

      • by afidel (530433)
        Well I for one hope they stole the RAM design from the F-117, the high maintenance cost of the RAM on the Nighthawk is major part of why it was retired so soon after the introduction of the F22.
      • The Chinese are probably happy to get technical information and parts from any US secret aircraft - as we would be to get theirs. They might have learned something useful, but the technology on the F117 is so old that it probably wasn't very useful.

        Its difficult to know the status and capabilities of the new J20, but China does have a lot of smart engineers so it should probably be taken seriously.

      • by afxgrin (208686)

        As if they even needed those F117 components to figure out a stealth design. All the pieces to start building an F-22 equivalent have likely been leaked via espionage, an engineer who lost a USB key, or a compromised server containing technical design documents. All the design software that can be used for modeling RF signals are available via pirated copies online, and have been for some time. They probably started building their jet right from old design plans for the F-22, likely recovered from a hard

      • clearly you know very little about stealth aircraft - you are right in that the the Chinese aircraft does not resemble the F117, it more closely resembles the F-22 or JSF and Size has virtually nothing to do with stealthiness, the B2 is a huge aircraft ! The F-117 was VERY stealthy and has been estimated to be around 10 square centimeters (you can find it on the internet) slightly larger than a rubics cube

        • by icebike (68054)

          The British and Australians have been tracking F117 flights for a long time, out to 150 miles away. Even during Desert Storm.

          Yugoslav air defences tracked F-117s with old Russian radars operating on long wavelengths. Long-wave radars present a serious threat to stealth aircraft like the F-117, and there is a lot of that old junk on the market.

          I can't believe you waded into a thread about how the Chinese obtained technology from a SHOT DOWN F-117 to remind us just how stealth they are.

      • by iamhassi (659463)
        That's exactly what I was thinking, even the story is about the plane being shot down in 1999 , and the technology is from the 70s considering the F-117's first flight was 1981 and has already been retired. [wikipedia.org]

        IF the new Chinese 5th generation figher is based on 1970's designs then we have nothing to worry about, especially since it won't be released until 2018 [wikipedia.org] and seeing how the Chinese government controls all the media they'll swear the fighter is the most amazing jet in the world even if it never leaves
    • by Suki I (1546431)

      My first though when I heard of the Chinese Stealth Fighter is I wonder where and how they stole the technology. No way China could build one themselves at this point without a little help. Not saying that they could not have built on further in the future on their own; only saying this was really quick.

      Actually, their knockoff does not look like any of that F-117 angularity. It looks more like the newer ones that are rounded off.

      Different wild guess, they looked at all of the "advertising" pictures the USA sent around of their new plane, took some of their own, paid off a few people and "poof" new airplane that looks like a USA plane. I wonder if the guts are the same?

    • by PraiseBob (1923958) on Monday January 24, 2011 @08:08PM (#34988728)
      In March it was shot down, in May, the US "accidentally" bombed the Chinese Embassy. There was widespread speculation the next day that it was to destroy stealth material. It wasn't a random bomb that fell onto Embassy grounds, but the most precise bomb that was available, with GPS coordinates given by the CIA rather than military intelligence, and dropped right on top of a specific foreign agents office, 5 times.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._bombing_of_the_Chinese_embassy_in_Belgrade [wikipedia.org]
      • by SpazmodeusG (1334705) on Monday January 24, 2011 @09:15PM (#34989268)

        After that incident i always found it odd how the media reacted to such things. The media never reported on just how blatant the strike was. Instead the main stories been reported around the time were "attacks on US nationals increase" as various Chinese protest groups vented their anger on American government buildings around the world. Essentially the reports were made to make the Chinese look bad.

        Now it's obvious that Chinese media is a complete farce. It's state controlled and blatantly so. But i also have to wonder if our western media isn't exactly the same but just smarter about it? Sure it isn't blatant like Pravda or China Daily but our western media still seems to reach for the same goals as Pravda and China Daily would. From getting people behind support of a war to excusing completely unjustifiable actions. Our media seems no better, just smarter and less blatant. Probably makes our media more dangerous than theirs to be honest.

        Similar things happened in the Hainan Island spy plane incident. The Chinese returned the crew in perfect health and the also spy plane to the US but they were the bad guys according to the media i'm exposed to. I really don't get our media. I'm sure if the roles were reversed China would still be made out to be the bad guys.

        Yet again the same thing with the Iraq war. There were never any links to Al-Qaeda. No WMDs. But our media didn't even report that as a possibility in the lead up to war.

    • My first though when I heard of the Chinese Stealth Fighter is I wonder where and how they stole the technology. No way China could build one themselves at this point without a little help.

      Why not? It should be stressed that the language of the article is purely speculative.

      Note the language of the article
      "experts said China may have gleaned knowledge from a US F-117 Nighthawk..."
      "We believe the Chinese used those materials"
      "It is likely..."
      "it has been claimed..."


      I'm not saying it wasn't stolen. I don't know anywhere near enough to have any kind of informed opinion but I feel the need to point out that the article throws out wild speculation and many people here are reading it a

  • Stealth (Score:4, Funny)

    by halcyon1234 (834388) <halcyon1234@hotmail.com> on Monday January 24, 2011 @07:46PM (#34988492) Journal
    We think they're using some of our stealth tech. We tried to check, but couldn't find the plane. =(
    • It must not be one of ours, then!

      But seriously, American stealth bombers were designed to work well over oceans and Russian terrain, and apparently didn't work so well over open desert terrain.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Monday January 24, 2011 @07:48PM (#34988508) Homepage Journal

    You don't believe in the "free market"?

    • by billstewart (78916) on Monday January 24, 2011 @08:13PM (#34988766) Journal

      One of the more serious problems with the military-industrial complex's development process, besides obvious little things like threatening to kill millions of people and possibly initiate nuclear winter, is that it takes a large number of scientists and engineers and diverts them away from useful civilian technology and diverts their talents to working on projects that ideally will never be used, and hides any parts of that work that could be useful away where the public can't use it.

      There are occasionally useful technologies that escape - this "Internet" thing really is more convenient than uucp and Usenet were, and GPS is really cool but there are other ways to implement wide-area navigation systems without satellites. But they guys who were making tank engines 20% more efficient could have been doing that for truck engines or car engines, and the people working on improving small supersonic airplanes could have been improving civilian passenger or cargo airplanes instead.

      • by Wyatt Earp (1029)

        Increasingly efficient and powerful turbofans are because of military research, your better tank engine technology actually comes from the private sector and is adopted for the military.

        Technology goes both ways very quickly between the private sector and military since many military platforms are based on civilian platforms. For example, the C-17 cargo aircraft's engines are derived from the engines for the Boeing 757 and will be an option for the new Russian civilian airliner the Il-96.

        The engines of the

      • by number11 (129686) on Monday January 24, 2011 @10:06PM (#34989718)

        One of the more serious problems with the military-industrial complex's development process, besides obvious little things like threatening to kill millions of people and possibly initiate nuclear winter, is that it takes a large number of scientists and engineers and diverts them away from useful civilian technology and diverts their talents to working on projects that ideally will never be used, and hides any parts of that work that could be useful away where the public can't use it.

        A long time ago (perhaps in the 1960s) I saw a quote from the head of one of the major Japanese corporations. Might have been Sony, but I can't find it now. He said (something like) "American engineers are very good, American first-rate engineers are better than ours. But your first-rate engineers are working on military products. We're building consumer products, and win in the marketplace because our first-rate engineers are better than your second-rate engineers."

    • "When dragons belch and hippos flee My thoughts, Ankh-Morpork, are of thee Let others boast of martial dash For we have boldly fought with cash We own all your helmets, we own all your shoes. We own all your generals - touch us and you'll lose. Morporkia! Morporkia! Morporkia owns the day! We can rule you wholesale Touch us and you'll pay.".....From Terry Pratchett.
  • by www.sorehands.com (142825) on Monday January 24, 2011 @07:48PM (#34988510) Homepage

    We got the technology for the F-117 Nighthawk from the downed alien space craft in Roswell. So why can't the chinese get it from us?

  • the codename is "Chinese Whisper".

    (any Americans present - this is what the British world call your game "telephone")

  • Okay, so (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dachannien (617929) on Monday January 24, 2011 @08:00PM (#34988642)

    So our F-117A gets shot down by a Yugoslav-made SAM, based on a Soviet design, in Serbia ten years ago. The F-117A was already close to 20 years old at the time, and it was retired in 2008. This is definitely the tech I want to be copying for my state-of-the-art stealth aircraft.

    So, why exactly are we concerned that the J-20 will give the F-22 or F-35 a run for their money? We already know that the F-22 can splash (in mock combat) F-15s and F-16s with missiles before the F-22 is even detected. If the Chinese merely copied stealth tech from the F-117A and (apparently) photos of the F-35, is it really going to have good enough stealth to stand up against the F-22 or even just the F-35 in actual combat?

    • They may have copied some technology in materials. The paint [english.blic.rs] on the F-117 appears to be most prized secret. Externally they seemed to have copied some of the angles of the current generation of fighters (which isn't hard). However some parts of the plane appear to be not so stealthy [wsj.com]. Notably the front canards and the engine exhaust do not appear to be designed for stealth.
      • by c6gunner (950153)

        They may have copied some technology in materials. The paint [english.blic.rs] on the F-117 appears to be most prized secret.

        Eh, it's no big deal. Given the quality of their manufacturing process, all the Chinese pilots will get lead poisoning before they even get in a dogfight.

    • Re:Okay, so (Score:5, Informative)

      by Luckyo (1726890) on Monday January 24, 2011 @09:13PM (#34989262)

      Concerns are based on two problems:

      1. Russians were above and beyond West in both radar tech and SAM tech by at least two-three decades according to jane's back when soviet fell apart and some US specialists got to poke at some soviet tech. It's one of the development areas known to have not stopped due to lack of funding as it was considered strategically important to Russia. Decades old S-300 is most likely capable or detecting and tracking F-117 if it comes close enough. S-400 was specifically built to track and kill B-2-generation aircraft and its derivatives in addition to cruise missiles. S-500 coming next year was officially designated as an "AWACS/Electronic warface aircraft killer" carrying insane sounding range of 600km.
      Most Chinese radar tech is direct derivative of russian tech. This was largely confirmed when US and Israel all but pissed their pants when hearing about S-400 being potentially sold to Iran - it would've essentially make any airstrike against Iran a one way trip for many strike craft and force to essentially use nothing but last generation stealth aircraft and still most likely take significant losses, cutting both Israel's options to zero and making US "plausible deniability" to any airstrike made zero as well.

      2. Air-to-air combat between two stealth fighters has a very high probability of becoming dogfight situation. This is very, very bad for US whose strategic approach is to field a low number of nigh-untouchable aircraft from remote bases and aircraft carriers using long and medium range radar guided missiles as their main weapon. Stealth on the opponent's side makes both early detection and radar guidance difficult, and makes superiority of your own aircraft much lesser then that of the opponent. Up until now, US was counting on fielding something around 200 stealth aircraft to suppress Chinese airforce in event of Taiwan escalation (the main conflict at the moment). China can field approximately ten times that at least. So strategically this requires each airstrike group being able to fight in at least 1:4 scenario, and win with minimal attrition. Old stealth may indeed still allow for numbers, but would raise attrition rates to unacceptable levels causing a strategic failure.

      We know how China's tech is mostly simply copied/licensed russian tech, we can trust that craft in question most likely have older, worse stealth, but significantly better radar system and most likely better tracking. We still couldn't fit helmet-mounted HUD and wide-angle tracking on F-22, it simply wasn't ready yet. It's a major feature of F-35 though, and it's a direct copy of russian tech reverse engineered from MiG-29 lifted from the few aircraft that Germany gained in unification. This system gives pilot tremendous advantage in dogfighting, and if chinese can indeed use older stealth to force F-22 into close range dogfights and has a copy of that old russian tech as well , F-22's superiority itself becomes questionable.

      Finally, there's an obvious home field advantage for stealth aircraft and radar usage. Firing up your active radar essentially nullifies your stealth to a large degree. This is why neither F-117 nor B-2 carry any kind of active radar. F-22, being an actual air superiority fighter however does, and would have to actually fire it up to engage enemy fighters stealthy enough to disallow passive guidance. This makes it vulnerable to ground-based interception as well as air based one.

      All in all, any opponent who is in possession of any stealth tech AND plans to fight inside or close to its border presents a number of strategic and tactical problems that opponent that doesn't have stealth fighters won't. Even in best-case scenario where Chinese wouldn't have access to russian radar tech and software, this would cause a major headache and significantly more restrictive rules of engagement, cutting down strategic options.

      • by c6gunner (950153)

        China can field 2,000 stealth aircraft?

        You sure are pulling a lot of numbers out of your ass ....

        F-22, being an actual air superiority fighter however does, and would have to actually fire it up to engage enemy fighters stealthy enough to disallow passive guidance. This makes it vulnerable to ground-based interception as well as air based one.

        Except the F-22 has the ability to share sensor data with other aircraft. So you can send one F-22 way forward, hit the enemy with your active radar, then have the 10 F-22's behind it light up the bad guys with missiles without needing to operate any of their own sensors. That tech alone gives it a massive advantage over anything else in the skies today. Add to that the fact that China has no missiles capable

        • Re:Okay, so (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Luckyo (1726890) on Monday January 24, 2011 @10:25PM (#34989856)

          China can field 2,000 stealth aircraft?

          You sure are pulling a lot of numbers out of your ass ....

          Air superiority aircraft. When you're defensive, you don't have to have a lot of stealth ones. Just enough to force enemy stealth fighters to power up their own fire control radar. The numbers are real, and have been published by various credible defense journals, Jane's being one.

          Except the F-22 has the ability to share sensor data with other aircraft. So you can send one F-22 way forward, hit the enemy with your active radar, then have the 10 F-22's behind it light up the bad guys with missiles without needing to operate any of their own sensors. That tech alone gives it a massive advantage over anything else in the skies today. Add to that the fact that China has no missiles capable of being used at ranges available to the F-22, and you're left with the conclusion that even if the Chinese have somehow managed to develop an aircraft with decent radar and stealth characteristics similar to the F-22, they'd still be heavily outmatched in any encounter.

          Which once again, brings us to the problem of uneven ground. US is not expecting to field it's craft in the neutral or friendly, but hostile territory. This means that friendly guidance vs even low grade stealth is going to be non-existent, and enemy ground radar installations are functional and unsuppresed. The goal of chinese fighter is NOT to win toe-to-toe match vs F-22. It's goal is to push back US AWACS craft into ineffective range and force F-22s to fire up their own fire control radar or retreat due to lack of targeting data when achieving it's main task of winning air superiority.

          And for this, chinese don't need 2000 air superiority aircraft. They need a small percentage of stealth air superiority fighters and a large conventional air superiority force which will move in the moment F-22's stealth is compromised.

          • by Luckyo (1726890)

            And missing word in last paragraph, it's supposed to say "2000 stealth air superiority aircraft". Point being that most of the air force can be conventional.

          • by c6gunner (950153)

            Air superiority aircraft. When you're defensive, you don't have to have a lot of stealth ones. Just enough to force enemy stealth fighters to power up their own fire control radar. The numbers are real, and have been published by various credible defense journals, Jane's being one.

            Ah, that makes more sense. Not sure why you think this would force anyone to "power up their own fire control radar", though. In simulated engagements F-22's have generally operated on passive sensors, even when engaged by an opposing force an order of magnitude larger than their own.

            US is not expecting to field it's craft in the neutral or friendly, but hostile territory.

            The US isn't planning on flying it's aircraft thousands of miles into enemy territory - most engagements are likely to take place over neutral territory or coastal areas. Do you honestly think that the US wants to invade mai

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Luckyo (1726890)

              Ah, that makes more sense. Not sure why you think this would force anyone to "power up their own fire control radar", though. In simulated engagements F-22's have generally operated on passive sensors, even when engaged by an opposing force an order of magnitude larger than their own.

              The more of the opponent's forces in the air, the less you want to paint huge crosshairs on yourself by firing your own active radar. When you are actually forced into pushing air superiority without friendly radar support (i.e. escorting bomber planes to enemy radar installations/airfields), you will likely have little choice in the matter.

              The US isn't planning on flying it's aircraft thousands of miles into enemy territory - most engagements are likely to take place over neutral territory or coastal areas. Do you honestly think that the US wants to invade mainland China?

              You can use the actual names. Taiwan. And yes, to gain air superiority over Taiwan, US will have to hit mainland China, as pretty much all radar installations and airfie

            • by AK Marc (707885)
              Before you can push back the AWACS, you have to get through the F-22's, F-35's, and assorted other aircraft being fielded. This is a bit like saying "the goal of our infantry is to push back their artillery". Far easier said than done.

              You have enough moderately stealthy aircraft out to target the AWACS only, and let me know whether that works. They aren't sending naked infantry to attack someone's artillery. They have their own artillery they want to move into position to attack yours. Even if it's onl
    • by MarkvW (1037596)

      You are thinking like all of the anachronistic fighter pilots of the world want you to think.

      The question isn't whether the foreign plane can splash a F-22 or F-35, the question is whether it can splash a legion of drones armed with the latest antiaircraft missiles and detection technology.

    • I suppose chineses can afford a whole lot more J20 than the US can afford F22s. In the end its all that counts.
      it also means on the next generation Chineses may have the edge.

  • by l2718 (514756) on Monday January 24, 2011 @08:00PM (#34988650)
    The US could have (should have?) bombed the wreckage at the time.
    • The US didn't bomb the wreckage because the scene was soon overrun with civilians, which was broadcast on CNN. It would have been horrible PR if those civilians dancing on the wreckage suddenly disappeared and the image faded to static.

      • The US didn't bomb the wreckage because the scene was soon overrun with civilians, which was broadcast on CNN. It would have been horrible PR if those civilians dancing on the wreckage suddenly disappeared and the image faded to static.

        Just say "oh no, the self-destruct went off!" and everything will be fine.

      • by dave420 (699308)
        It didn't stop them doing that in Iraq...
    • by microbee (682094)

      No!!!!!! That would give out our other hyper secrets of stealth bombs!!!!!

    • A cruise missile would seem a practical alternative in this case. Knowing that it cost several million each to fire, there is a lot of money invested in the Stealth tech. It would seem to me there would be an advantage of destroying the cockpit area, storage media, flight recorder and communications equipment among other things.

    • If there's anything I've learned from Mythbusters, it's that explosives do not make things disappear... Explosives simply turn stuff into smaller stuff and spread it around.

  • by molo (94384) on Monday January 24, 2011 @08:03PM (#34988686) Journal

    The F-117A is a bomber or "ground attack" aircraft, it is not an air-to-air fighter, despite what stupid movies and popular media say. This summary is also incorrect in calling it a fighter.

    -molo

    • by Orestesx (629343)
      The misunderstanding is forgivable considering the "F" designation and irrelevant to the purposes of the summary. Give it up, "Stealth Fighter" is part of the lexicon.
    • by afidel (530433)
      It's a lot closer to the size of a fighter and has the capacity of a fighter and carries an F designation. Contrast that to the B2 Spirit which is huge and has nearly the payload capacity of the B52.
      • by molo (94384)

        Capacity of a fighter? Here's what wikipedia has to say:

        Earlier stealth aircraft (such as the F-117 and B-2) lack afterburners, because the hot exhaust would increase their infrared footprint, and breaking the sound barrier would produce an obvious sonic boom, as well as surface heating of the aircraft skin which also increased the infrared footprint. As a result their performance in air combat maneuvering required in a dogfight would never match that of a dedicated fighter aircraft. This was unimportant i

  • by Chaostrophy (925) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <lottopdlanor>> on Monday January 24, 2011 @08:11PM (#34988752) Homepage Journal

    We have some blurry photos of a largish fighter or light bomber, with a shape that looks like it was designed with a low RCS (Radar Cross Section) in mind, that would be done using equations the USSR published in the 1960s (never thinking that computers would become fast enough for them to be practical). What you would get from an F117 wreck would be RAM (Radar Absorbant Materiels), but how you can tell what an aircraft is made from via those photos is beyond me. Get the info from a US aircraft trying to track it, and you can say something, but all we can do with what is known now is speculate (which sure is fun).

  • I'm sure this had nothing to do with the accidental US bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade at the time.

  • The problem with using your shiny new toys is that you *might* lose one. Then the other kids learn what you know, or at least some of it. That's the risk of maintaining your edge by purely technological means.

  • Old (Score:5, Insightful)

    by headhot (137860) on Monday January 24, 2011 @09:23PM (#34989338) Homepage

    The F-117 is 25-30 year old technology at this point. I would be more worried about the tech being freely handed over to China by companies like Boeing when they go into partnerships with Chinese state owned firms.

  • Here's an american who leaked info to China...

    http://www.mauinews.com/page/content.detail/id/545413.html [mauinews.com]

    I live very close to this guys mansion and let me tell you, he was living in quite the place before he got caught.

  • J-20 info (Score:4, Informative)

    by Orgasmatron (8103) on Monday January 24, 2011 @10:04PM (#34989686)

    Air Power Australia has excellent coverage of the J-20.

    Chengdu J-XX [J-20] Stealth Fighter Prototype: A Preliminary Assessment [ausairpower.net]
    J-20 Stealth Fighter: China's First Strike Weapon [ausairpower.net]

    And if you want to know why scrapping the F-22 was a bad idea and why the F-35 won't cut it in future conflicts, read this: Surviving the Modern [ausairpower.net]
    Integrated Air Defence System

  • It's a prototype or technology testbed. I wouldn't be surprised to see the J-21 (or whatever they decide to call the next prototype) feature Chinese designed vector thrust engines with more power when they can get them figured out and to improve dramatically on its stealth capabilities.

    The aircraft is quite big, so I'm not sure its truly a fighter as some sort of attack aircraft. In that role it can be argued that provided the front stealth technology is good it doesn't matter how bad the RCS is when it is

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