No Chinese rival for F-22? Think again

Back in July, when Congress was weighing whether to extend production of the F-22 Raptor, one of the frequent arguments against doing so was that top military brass didn’t even want more of the world’s most advanced fighter jet. This claim wasn’t really correct, since some Air Force generals disagreed with the push to end F-22 production, but it became accepted wisdom because Defense Secretary Robert Gates came out against the fighter.

Now we learn that one of the primary reasons for this determination by Gates — that China, likely to be our biggest rival in the 21st century, was “projected to have no fifth generation aircraft by 2020″ — was dead wrong.

Aviation Week reports that Chinese military officials now say that they will soon be flight-testing a competitor to the F-22. The Chinese expect the jet to enter service in just eight to 10 years. Aviation Week quotes military analyst Richard Fisher explaining why this announcement — which just happens to come on the heels of President Obama’s trip to China — is a big deal:

“One has to assume that the People’s Liberation Army is confident in its projections, as it almost never makes such comments about future military programs, especially one that has been as closely held as its next-generation fighter.

“As such, one has to be asking very hard questions: How did the U.S. intelligence community get this one wrong? And inasmuch as no one expects the F-35 to replace the F-22 in the air superiority role, is it time to acknowledge that F-22 production termination is premature and that a much higher number is needed to sustain deterrence in Asia?”

Deterrence is the key word here. As I wrote back in July, the last thing we want is for emerging powers like China to get the idea that they may have overtaken us militarily — and especially in air superiority, an invaluable status that we have spent decades protecting. A second analyst, Andrew Brookes, told Aviation Week that China most likely isn’t bluffing here:

“The Russians have the technology and the Chinese have the money,” [Brookes] says. “If they really set that as a target, then I think they can do it.”

The other major concern at the time the decision was made was the budget, as the White House had suddenly become worried about its image of fiscal profligacy. A Senate committee wanted to spend $1.75 billion this year to keep F-22 production going, while a House committee had tagged $369 million; the administration ensured that both plans were eventually quashed. But the fiscal responsibility claim was always ridiculous: Note that the House figure of $369 million is less than the feds have already awarded the Georgia Department of Transportation in “stimulus” spending.

Like I said at the time, this administration is penny-wise and trillion-dollar-foolish. Now we know that this foolishness could prove dangerous relatively soon.

49 comments Add your comment


November 17th, 2009
10:34 am

Hyper-sonic missiles make all aircraft obsolete.

Anything else is just a diversion.

We have the edge now, but………………

keep an eye on Japan.


November 17th, 2009
10:47 am

What are you guy, a shill for the Military Industrial Complex, or are you just dedicated to criticizing the current administration regardless of what side of an issue you need to take? The F-22 program was, and is, a mess. It was so bloated and so out-of-line with military reality that even the DOD, Bush carry-over, head knew it needed to be stopped. Gee, you think that that same DOD isn’t aware of China’s capability? And who knows, maybe they will go all out for this effort – let them squander hundred of billions, or trillions, on stuff like this and just maybe their economy will tank like ours. And what are they gonna use it for – air-to-air combat over the US? Over China? Over proxy countries – countries that couldn’t afford it in the first place, and certainly couldn’t afford to keep ‘em flying – unless, of course, China’s got better aeronautical engineers than we do. Or maybe you think they’ll hire Lockheed to build it for ‘em…I wouldn’t put it past ‘em – Lockheed, that is – after all they have an obligation to it’s shareholders.

David Axelfraud

November 17th, 2009
10:48 am

Kyle Wingfield

November 17th, 2009
10:30 am

Anti-Wooten, samuel, Sunshine, Axelfraud, et al. — enough with the name-calling and stupid threats. The next one will get the poster kicked off the blog.

When did I name call?

David Axelfraud

November 17th, 2009
10:52 am

Kyle, you are very confusing. You post a set of rules and I follow them. Someone name calls me and threatens me. I post their comments for you to deal with.

What do you do? You threaten to kick me off the blog. Wow.

Kyle Wingfield

November 17th, 2009
10:59 am

DirtyDawg: If the DOD was so aware of China’s capability, then why did Gates give a speech in the middle of the debate saying something that now clearly isn’t true? Either he was greatly mistaken or he was saying something he knew to be wrong. Either way, that’s a problem imo.

The biggest problem with the F-22 decision is that it was made in between strategic assessments. The total number of F-22s we will have, 187, derives purely from this year’s budgetary considerations. The other explanations given to justify the budgetary decision don’t seem to be all that accurate, as the news about China’s jet indicates. Those are problems.

Kyle Wingfield

November 17th, 2009
11:02 am

Axelfraud, I don’t want to hear about samuel’s network of telepaths or your German shepherds. Nor does anyone else.

Intown Lib

November 17th, 2009
11:07 am

Excellent Kyle. I see you are picking up where the pre 9/11 Bush administration and the military industrial complex war left off. With Al Qaeda’s power and influence waning it is time to make China the boogeyman again.

And now you blame Obama’s priorities to actually compete with China and the rest of the world ECONOMICALLY by building up domestic infrastructure and institutions for a failure in military intelligence! Your logic escapes me.

I do agree with you that we must maintain a strong (if not the strongest) military force for a variety of reasons. But, we cannot maintain our world influence through military means alone. Obama is trying to steer America toward a more prosperous future by transforming our economy — healthcare included.

In a global world, we now compete with developed and developing nations at EVERY level — including transportation infrastructure, healthcare, and education — not just defense spending.

David Axelfraud

November 17th, 2009
11:17 am

Kyle Wingfield, then instead of getting onto me you may want to stop threats from other people such as Samuel. I don’t like to be threatened on blogs. Know what I mean?

David Axelfraud

November 17th, 2009
11:20 am

Kyle Wingfield, one more thing, I didn’t threaten anyone. I never made claims that I would come “find them” and send a “warning shot” at other people. You seem to misjudge people a lot on your blogs. If you actually READ the conversation you would know that Samuel made a threat toward me. I did NOT provoke him in any way. I didn’t name call etc…. He threatened me.

Now, if we are all to abide by your rules then you need to enforce them.

My German Shepherd comment was in reference to his threats. I simply stated that if he dared to ever come knocking and “find me” he would be greeted by two trained dogs. That Kyle, is not a threat. That is called self-protection.

Kyle Wingfield

November 17th, 2009
11:26 am

Intown: I don’t think one has to make China a boogeyman to acknowledge that China is the country most likely to challenge us militarily in the coming decades. And by “challenge us militarily,” I don’t mean they would attack us. The only thing worse than being in an arms race is losing an arms race, and China has shown every indication that it intends to match our military capabilities.

I would also note that President Obama is not exactly fostering good relations with China by launching/encouraging trade disputes, as on tire imports. So we are antagonizing Beijing on trade, appeasing it on human rights (see: Obama and Dalai Lama) and encouraging its military build-up by giving it reason to believe it can match us relatively soon. Is this really a good combination?


November 17th, 2009
11:45 am

This issue is of minor concern. All the Chinese need do is form an alliance with Europe and shift world currency to Euros; the US is powerless to stop this; and when that happens GAME OVER!


November 17th, 2009
11:54 am

I don’t understand how you can want less governmental spending and waste, are you really a conservative. When a program is scrapped becuase of cost over-runs and waste at every turn, how can you as a “CONSERVATIVE” find reasons to keep that very program going.
Another question, many “CONSERVATIVES” are questioning why they are bringing prisioners from Cuba to Illinois! My question is why not? Cuba, unless I have forgotten, is a COMMUNIST island and we are keeping terrorist who attacked the US there? Tell me why should they stay there? Out of sight out of mind?


November 17th, 2009
11:58 am

Go away DA, the rules are clear.

The F22 in dead, let’s go next generation and somehow the defense contractors need to quit getting filthy rich on the taxpayers dime, we never get our money’s worth with these sponges.


November 17th, 2009
12:01 pm

Mr. Wingfield,

Why do you choose to support information provided by Richard D. Fisher over that of Defense Secretary Robert Gates? Do you think he is a better source of information? I think Mr. Fisher has shown a long history of drumming up fear of the Chinese military…he has cried wolf on everything from Chinese missile defense to submarines and now airplanes.

Mr. Gates said in the same speech that you quote:

“Many of these decisions – like the one I just described – were more clear-cut than others. But all of them, insofar as they involved hundreds of billions of dollars and the security of the American people, were treated with the utmost seriousness by the senior civilian and military leadership of the Pentagon. An enormous amount of thought, study, assessment, and analysis underpins these budget recommendations – including the National Defense Strategy I issued last summer.
Some have called for yet more analysis before making any of the decisions in this budget. But when dealing with programs that were clearly out of control, performing poorly, and excess to the military’s real requirements, we did not need more study, more debate, or more delay – in effect, paralysis through analysis. What was needed were three things – common sense, political will, and tough decisions. Qualities too often in short supply in Washington, D.C.”

Do you through out his analysis based upon a silly article from “Aviation Week”?


November 17th, 2009
12:07 pm

Ooops… Replace Through with Throw…

The American People

November 17th, 2009
12:33 pm

Bow down to another foreign leader Obammy, turn those clocks back.

Chris Broe

November 17th, 2009
12:46 pm

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water China builds a supernavy. Just when you thought it was safe to fly again, China builds an uberjet. Just when you thought it was safe to take Kung Fu classes again, China perfects the numbchuck. Just when you thought it was safe to borrow money again, China wants to know what’s in your wallet.

Let China pay for their F-22. We’re broke, hello. Can we stop imagining these vunder veapons that vill taken over der verld? It’s like when the Germans tried to turn the war around with the V1, V2, Me262, and that rocket plane. And that fragile Tiger Tank! Dont forget that.

It takes a mad scientist to think that any weapon can make the difference in war. Victory and peace depend on the moral ascendancy of any army’s clearly-stated mission which must align properly with the strategic and geo-political purpose that evolved from the founding principles of that country. Thus Germany had no biz invading Poland, Belgium, or France. What was that mission? I think Hitler claimed self defense. Ditto Barbarosa. What was that mission? To cross five thousand miles of tundra? For what? The German Army was doomed from day one. Not a chance. To see that beautiful army get annihilated like that is a sad sad vision. Ditto the confederate army in our civil war. What was their mission? They didn’t have one that was aligned with any founding principle of the united 13 colonies, (save for slavery).

So, we are witnessing the specter of our army milling around in Afghanistan with nothing but lost opportunity to guide the generals. No mission. No strategic vision. No alignment to the purpose of America. Just a bunch of hot air from Glenn Beck and his trickle-down clones.


November 17th, 2009
12:48 pm

“Its not much of a war, but it’s the only war we got”

Churchill's MOM

November 17th, 2009
1:00 pm

All the RINOs say listen to the Generals. The Generals said kill the F22 program. Personally I trust John Mccain’s opinion and he said kill the F22.

We can not afford a standing army the size we need but Congress can come up for waste like the C17 and extra engine program for the F35. Lobbyist control our defence budget not the Generals.

Churchill's MOM

November 17th, 2009
1:01 pm

Kyle Wingfield

November 17th, 2009
11:26 am

Do you have a job?

professional skeptic

November 17th, 2009
1:35 pm

Seems to me that China has the money in the bank to invest in something like this. We, on the other hand, are flat-out broke. If we want shiny toys, we need to raise sufficient revenue to pay for them.


November 17th, 2009
1:37 pm

- jt –

Hypersonic missiles do not make ALL aircraft obsolete.
Allow me to explain:

For starters, hypersonic missiles (ones that travel faster
than Mach 5) are still a rarity, even in the 21st century.
Artillery rounds and bullets are the usual culprits (man-made)
that travel at that speed. Most missiles today operate in
the supersonic regime for any length of time. The reason
being is that most fall under the category of guided missile
(self-guided with a gyrocompass, GPS & sensors – or remotely
- or a combination of the two), and that requires a nose cone
that can pass radio or radar signals. The guidance system is
usually up front – and that requires composite technology that
most countries do not possess or put strict export controls on.
When a missile or aircraft exceeds supersonic speeds, the skin
temperature of the vehicle starts to climb – at Mach 2.2, this can
hover around 300 degrees F. At Mach 3, it climbes to 600 deg.
F – as hot as a 30-watt soldering iron. And at those speeds, it is
extremely difficult to maneuver for air combat, which is why the
bulk of air combat tactics take place at subsonic speeds. A missile
designed to do this usually has a very short range – shorter than
the combat range of most military aircraft.
The facts above are how some fighter pilots were able to survive
SAM encounters in Vietnam – that’s not to say that missile tech
won’t improve in the coming decades – but so will missile defense
for individual aircraft. There was a spark of innovation in this area
shortly after the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

Kyle Wingfield

November 17th, 2009
1:56 pm

PeachtreeMatt: Fisher wasn’t the primary source for that story. He and Brookes were asked to provide independent verification of the feasibility of what the Chinese military announced.

If the analysis was that the F-22 program wasn’t being run well, why not fix the problems instead of shutting it down altogether? The latter choice leaves you with a fleet of F-22s that is too small to be very effective, and a second-best jet in the (still-in-development) F-35 — which itself would have benefited from having the kinks worked out of the F-22.


November 17th, 2009
2:09 pm

- Kyle –
IMO, China cannot muster a competitor to challenge
the F-22 Raptor.
The only other threat in the Asian theater I can think of
to the Raptor’s airsuperiority would be the Mitsubishi F-2 –
a result of the FSX program of the late 1980s, between the
General Dynamics (Lockheed Martin post 1993) F-16
program and the Japanese manufacturer.


November 17th, 2009
2:11 pm

- Jefferson – Chris Broe – prof. skeptic –

Thank you. The F-22 program’s cost has clearly
exceeded its benefit, except at air shows.


November 17th, 2009
2:23 pm

- Kyle –
I didn’t know if you were referring to the J-10 concept
in the link you provided – that concept has not entered
service yet – but there may be another one that has.
An F-22 threat could emerge in the now-flying JF-17
Thunder. Not one-to-one, mind you but a multiple-ship
air cap against one Raptor could pose a threat.


November 17th, 2009
2:31 pm

- off topic – The Georgia Board of Regents just
raised basic tuition fees from $100 to $200 per


November 17th, 2009
3:00 pm

There was a time, not so very long ago, when we considered other nations’ military hardware inferior to ours for an extended period of time, and allowed our military capability to languish.

Our foolishness was explained to us on December 7, 1941.

The time to wonder if we produced enough Raptors will have long passed when Chinese planes show up in our airspace. And this time we will have no radar warning to ignore.


November 17th, 2009
3:27 pm

- StJ –
One of the most controversial aspects of the F-22
is the attempt to try and mix supersonic flight with
a stealth-paint skin coating. Even though all of the bugs
have apparently not been worked out, according to an
AJC whistleblower article, I don’t think that China has
achieved that capability.
Also, our “foolishness” on Dec.7, 1941 was largely due
to two primitive-radar operators who were not at their post.
Our air defense is not perfect (as made evident by problems
on Sept. 11, 2001), but it is as least as good as China’s
system. Give or Armed Forces some credit.


November 17th, 2009
3:28 pm

CORRECTION: Give our Armed Forces some credit.


November 17th, 2009
3:42 pm

On the contrary, the radar operators were at their post and reported the incoming Japanese aircraft. The commanders dismissed the radar contact as an incoming flight of B-17s being ferried in from California. (The B-17s, incidentally, did fly in in the middle of the attack and many were shot down or crash landed.)


November 17th, 2009
4:16 pm

- StJ –
You are right that there were personnel present at Opana
Point, but the station had not yet been properly activated,
and the operators failed to report the size of the radar echo.
My apologies for not being more clear.

jeff yuan

November 18th, 2009
3:30 am

russian tech china money?
russian offered to co deevelop 5th (4th )generation fighter jet, china refused, it wants to develope on its own.
Instead russians turn to indians and tehy r currently struggling to make one.
I also heard chinese f22 will fit a high tech device that even US don’t have it, wchich possibley give chinese an upper hand in event of f22 combat with each other.

I wish u talk responsibly and quit using your guess gut feeling words as factual info to fool your audience.


November 18th, 2009
8:40 am

Dear Mr. Wingfield.

Some food for thought.

First: Very little indicates that the Russian and Chinese projects are making much headway. Like the infamous all-new T-90 tank, they have been bandied about on the net with little substance to back it up. Did you learn nothing from the missile-gap hoax?

Secondly, the RF and CPR are designing the thing now; you want to match that with the F-22’s two to three decades’ old design? A design already overtaken by the F-35 (which still has prove itself!) in the area and era of networked war? Why would others succeed so soon, when the USA is still in the trial-and-error stage?

Third point: The RF and CPR are cooperating with the USA and countless others in the international fight against piracy – and you still cast these nations as the USA’s primary enemies? Applaud their efforts, we might need these people badly in an ever more restive world.

So, I have to classify your piece as slanted and alarmist. It can not be taken seriously. It’s agitprop, pure and simple. You write for Atlanta, GA – do you think that makes you trustworthy? I think not.

Drs. VHJM van Neerven MSW, MA
editor in chief for VNC communication counsel, Defense.

Kyle Wingfield

November 18th, 2009
10:10 am

jeff yuan and VNCcc: I provided the source of the facts I cited. What are your sources?


November 18th, 2009
12:14 pm

You stated no facts, just opinions.

I had a long answer for you but, again, AJC’s server dropped the connection.
Same trouble caused my double posting AND it still there.

Forget it and please, do your own homework. You can get our sources if you pay for it, same as we have to do.

[...] actually even found a US newspaper covering this story. That article picked up this story from a recent Aviation Week entry. I guess the big question now [...]

john liaw

November 19th, 2009
6:01 am

Don’t worry. By the time the chinese has the 5th generation aircraft, america will be producing the 6th generation or better aircraft.Maybe america should sell a limited amount of the aircraft to other countries so that the company can continue to develop new aircraft. this will also discourage other countries to develop their own as they can rely on america to get the best aircraft, even for show to their own people.


November 19th, 2009
6:25 am

China Struggles To Build An F-22
Pakistan Defence Forum

November 17, 2009: The Chinese Air Force has announced that it has a F-22 type aircraft ready to make its first flight within a year. The Chinese believe this aircraft will enter service within ten years. U.S. intelligence believes the Chinese are nowhere near this kind of capability. But given the quantity and quality of data Chinese hackers have been stealing in the past five years, it’s possible that they have much of the American technology that makes the F-22 and F-35 possible. Some believe that the Chinese also have a F-35 type design in the works as well.
American intel analysts believe that Chinese aviation technology (both design and manufacturing) is not yet capable of producing F-22/F-35 class aircraft. Given the experience with the first two Chinese designed and manufactured jet fighters (J-10 and JF-17), there is much doubt that China is capable of making the leap to F-22 class fighters. The big bottleneck is jet engine technology.
For two decades now, China has been developing the manufacturing technology for aircraft engines, the key component of any high performance aircraft. So far, China has been unable to create the manufacturing technology and personnel skills that are needed to make the engines for their most advanced jet fighters. For example, China is a major customer for Russian RD93 engines (originally designed for the MiG-29), and has bought over a thousand of them. The RD93 engines currently cost about $2.5 million each.
China has been developing a similar (apparently identical) engine to the RD93, the WS-13. Actually, this effort is being aided by Russia, which is selling China technology needed for the manufacture of key engine components. Russia isn’t happy about this, because they don’t want competition in the low cost jet engine market. Then again, China has a history of stealing technology it cannot buy, so the Russians are making the best of a bad situation. China says the WS-13 is nearly ready for service. Maybe, maybe not. Recently, China ordered another hundred RD93s. Building high performance military jet engines is difficult, and China has had problems mastering this kind of stuff. Not that they will not eventually acquire the skills, but until they do, they need the Russian made RD93s. Officially, more RD93 are being bought because China cannot produce enough of their WS-13s.
Chinese engineers also thought they had managed to master the manufacturing techniques needed to make a Chinese copy of the Russian AL31F engine. This Chinese copy, the WS10A, was meant for the Chinese J-10 fighter, which entered service two years ago. But the Chinese Air Force was not satisfied with the reliability or performance of the WS10A, and have ordered another hundred AL31Fs from Russia, in order to continue building J-10s. Meanwhile, Russian efforts to build an improved AL31 for their own F-22 competitor, have run into serious problems. Will the Chinese suddenly do better than their tutors?
The J-10 is the first modern jet fighter designed and built in China. The aircraft is an attempt to create a modern fighter-bomber that could compete with foreign designs. The experiment was not completely successful. Work on the J-10 began over twenty years ago, in an attempt to develop an aircraft that could compete with the Russian MiG-29s and Su-27s, and the American F-16. But the first prototype did not fly until 1998. There were problems, and it wasn’t until 2000 that the basic design flaws were fixed. By 2002, nine prototypes had been built, and flight testing was going forward to find, and fix, hundreds of smaller problems. It was a great learning experience for Chinese engineers, but it was becoming apparent that the J-10 was not going to be competitive with the Su-27s/30s China was buying from Russia. The J-10 looks something like the American F-16, and weighs about the same (19 tons). Like the F-16, and unlike the Su-27, the J-10 has only one engine.
The 13 ton JF-17, which uses the RD93, is meant to be a low cost alternative to the American F-16. It was developed in cooperation with Pakistan. The JF-17 is considered the equal to earlier versions of the F-16, but only 80 percent as effective as more recent F-16 models. The JF-17 design is based on a cancelled Russian project, the MiG-33. Most of the JF-17 electronics (in the Pakistani version) are Western, with Italian firms being major suppliers. The JF-17 can carry 3.6 tons of weapons and use radar guided and heat seeking missiles. It has max speed of nearly 2,000 kilometers an hour, an operating range of 1,300 kilometers and a max altitude of 55,000 feet. China has not yet decided on whether it will use the FC-1/JF-17 itself. This is apparently because China believes its own J-10 (another local design) and J-11 (a license built Russian Su-27) are adequate for their needs. The J-10, like the JF-17, did not work out as well as was hoped.

An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.


November 19th, 2009
10:40 pm

Keep the F-22 production going. At worst it’s very high quality job creation. At best it will be a deterrent to possible military conflicts.


November 20th, 2009
8:13 am

- Brent –
Then let Congress jack up your taxes to pay for it
and leave ours alone.


November 20th, 2009
7:12 pm

Bill Gertz,, Washington post:
The Defense Intelligence Agency is sticking by its estimates of when China will deploy a fifth-generation jet fighter after recent remarks by a Chinese general that Beijing’s most advanced jet could be fielded by 2017 – years earlier than U.S. intelligence projections.


November 23rd, 2009
3:25 pm

america is finished. it is broke and will soon bow to China. The shining Dragon will over-come the rusted bird. america shivers and wets itself for fear of offending.
Rise the Dragon.


November 23rd, 2009
5:43 pm

- Och – more like “Ouch”.

Paragraphs with only a few words capitalized at the
start of sentences don’t make for good grammar.

Henry L.

November 28th, 2009
12:20 am

It’s simply not easy to built an aircraft yet the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world. It takes alot of highly specialised skills to put one together and I don’t believe China has that capability yet. It’s one thing to just copy things but it’s totally different when you are producing cutting edge hardware.

Henry L.

November 28th, 2009
12:26 am

Before we’ve got the Russian threat and now the China threat. They are all hype to keep the military complex in the US humming. One must definately keep a close eye on any upcoming power that challenges the U but to bankrupt the country by scaring people about a perceived threat is dangerous. The fomer USSR has bankrupt themselves by trying to keep up the weapons race based on perceived American threat as well. It led them no where.


November 28th, 2009
5:58 am

The reason why China is racing to be more advance militarily is simply economics. Cost is still low. Every Chinese believe in being strong but only as a deterrence. No Chinese will fight unless it is in self defence. Americans wants to be strong to push their agenda or to kick butts.
China is not Japan. Otherwise Japan , korea and even India would be speaking Chinese. Money talks for Chinese. We are money mad.


January 29th, 2010
6:06 pm

I know im a little late to this blog and they arent gonna make any more f-22s which is stupid everyone has been talking about the war on terror and they forget about the next war and russia will sell anything just about to anyone as long as there money is good and it adds to there agenda.
hey the russians had there first flight with the t50 stealth fighter
and they are 5 years away from producing them they say.


May 21st, 2010
8:00 pm

China has yet to be able to build a 4th gen fighter, let alone a 5th generation aircraft with stealth and super cruise technology.
Gates cancelled the F22 because “we can’t afford it”, and Obama spent the identical amount of money buying cars made in Korea, Japan, Germany and Mexico for anyone who had a bad enough trade in, whether US citizen or not.