a7a45bbcgw1e2z5uzszvwg1A couple things here I want to approach. First off, as predicted here months ago (with the help of my readers) the J-20’s is going through weapons bay trials, which will inevitably lead up to some type of test launch. Of particular note is the J-20’s unique short ranged air to air missile deployment device from its side weapons bays. The F-22, a very loose analogue for the J-20 (emphasize very) uses a canted trapeze that pushes the AIM-9’s seeker out into the air-stream for proper establishment of a lock before launch once the bay doors are swung open. Only once the missile has acquired a target and the pilot “receives tone” (the AIM-9 series has an audible growl as hit hunts for a heat source, once it finds one it goes from an intermittent growling sound to a solid tone, cueing the pilot to fire) the missile can be fired and only then do the launch bay doors close up. This method increases the F-22’s stealth signature dramatically while also disturbing the airflow around the jet which makes for lower performance and a rougher ride during close in air combat maneuvering, or dogfighting. missile door 16278845Soon, the F-22 will have the AIM-9X Block II which features lock on after launch data-link capability. In other words, the pilot can “acquire” a target via his or her’s on-board sensors, including the hopefully forthcoming Scorpion helmet mounted sight (this is a great helmet and will allow the pilot to use their high off bore-sight cueing and situational awareness related projections even with night vision goggles, take that JHMCS). Once the target is “virtually locked” within the AIM-9X Block II’s engagement envelope the pilot can quickly fire the Sidewinder, with the doors opening and only closing momentarily, and allow the data-link to transfer the acquiring secondary sensor’s info to the missile after it has left the bay in the form of a vector. 392671799_06b6b950d0_zThe missile will fly in this prescribed direction so that it can acquire the target itself, at which point the AIM-9X Block II to becomes truly “fire and forget.” Once the AIM-9X Block II is integrated into the Raptor, and especially once the helmet mounted display is operational, the F-22’s side bay doors only have to briefly open to let the AIM-9X on its one-way mission. All this begs the question: If China loves copying the US when it comes to weapons systems, why not just build something similar for the J-20 when it comes to deploying its short range air to air missiles?

missile door 16278849The answer is quite simple, lock on after launch capability is not an easy one to achieve. It is technologically complex, requires deep systems integration (software architecture permitting), and robust testing using live missiles, and thus it is expensive. China, being the resourceful and cunning folks that they are, figured out a way to employ any new or relatively archaic high-off-bore-sight short ranged air to air missile while keeping the jet’s aerodynamics relatively intact (doors closed during prolonged maneuvering while the missile hangs out on its rail) while also minimizing the impact a “deployed missile” has the J-20’s low radar cross section. That is right folks, China just said “we don’t want to have to rely on LOAL capability, so why not just temporarily (as in for seconds or minutes) mount a similarly agile, but much less complex and expensive, short ranged air to air missile outside of the bay during times when close range combat is imminent?” This is exactly what they did, and honestly, I think it is genius. Radar signature becomes a small factor when fighting for one’s life at close range, having a reliable missile ready to make U-turn off the rail and subsequently turn your enemy into chaff is so important that is can be seen as a life and death requirement. The alternative, such as the reality the F-22 has faced for the better part of a decade, is that you open the bay up for prolonged periods of time and pay a large penalty in radar cross section and performance. Also by building a relatively simple contraption, kind of similar to one of those bars that goes on your lap on a roller coaster, albeit with a missile attached, Chinese engineers simplified the launch system and also probably made it much lighter than an F-22 type design. Once again, genius.

missile 16278842Another point to be taken from the J-20’s short ranged air to air missile launch mechanism revelations are that designers absolutely thought it was necessary to give this jet high-off-bore-sight close range missile capability from day one, and in a reliable and persistent nature when needed. This could be due to lack of maneuverability and/or because of its mission, which I have said for years is to break through the enemy’s (American, Taiwanese) fighter cover and take out their enablers (see tankers, AEW&C, C2 and connectivity nodes). In such a case, being electronically silent is your best bet at surviving, so using infra-red passively guided missiles, which require no electronic emissions, at medium-close ranges may be your only play, at least for anything that does not put out a continuous or semi-continuous form of radiation (see AWACS or JSTARS) in which case a passively guided anti-radiation missile may be the J-20’s weapon of choice, or a medium-long range AAM that can get within locking distance, featuring active radar or IR/EO for terminal homing, via a traditional data-link feeding the J-20’s targeting picture to it provided by passive sensors (IRST, ESM etc).

missile bay 16278841This is my analysis, I have not had time to look through other people’s opinion on the topic although as always I am damn certain if I am writing it here. Once again, I hope, beg even, that the DoD quits underestimating the Chinese when it comes to their evolving aerospace capabilities and ability to focus their development efforts, and funds, to gaping holes in our order of battle and combat capabilities, all of which that we have acquired by choice and not happenstance.

AIR_Su35b_KnAAPO_Pic_lgIn other news, China got its wish, Russia is selling them the SU-35 Terminator, and with it they will probably get their next generation engine and avionics technology. I could care less what Russia says about protecting theft of their intellectual aerospace property, there are multiple variants of the SU-27 now flying as indigenously developed and unlicensed Chinese weapon systems. Are we really to believe that Russia is just looking past this without compensation to sell a couple dozen fighters? Laughable…

*Thanks to Nico for sending me over some great pics and kicking me in the behind to write about this!

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  1. Todd Frohwirth says:

    Wow, Russia is giving them some nice engine technology. Did we stop naming Russian fighters with words starting with “F”?

  2. Sky Shadow says:

    Well Russia selling fighter jets to China … its called business as usual. The money needs to be rolling and the military industrial complex too.

  3. nico says:

    No doubt that USA defense establishment and certain think tanks need to stop saying that J20 or J21 are just rough copies pf US fighters and that Chinese can’t innovate. This is probably just one of many examples I am sure where the Chinese improved on or had a “Chinese” take on a weapon system, shows that they aren’t just simply “downloading” everything from LMT or Raytheon….

    If this is really how the missile is launched, I can think of a few advantages, less time wasted with opening/closing doors, less stress on the airframe and doors since with the door closed, not only you are still pretty much in LO but the structural integrity is maintained. Less complicated usually means more reliable, less problems and less need to do a bunch of testing which helps with a faster entry in service.

    I can’t wait to get more pictures, I am really curious to see if they will only fire short range A2A missiles from the side bays or if they will fire other weapons from there, wonder if maybe that’s why they went that route…if the rail is standard or can be changed on the flight line, maybe the Chinese could fire other missiles from there and not just a Sidewinder a la F22 side bay….

  4. jeffrey says:

    The Chinese are not buying Su-35’s. Russia would like to sell them to China but China is not interested. Russia has brought the Su-35 over to the Zhuhai Airshow every second year since 2006 but no evidence or hint of a deal has ever appeared. Russia no longer has a quantum lead over China as they had in the 90s, in fact, in some areas like electronics and stealth shaping, China might already be ahead. The only field China still needs to play catch-up on is engine development, although that is going quite smoothly with the large scale induction of the indigenous WS-10A. Very soon, China will be ahead of Russia in most categories as they have a larger pool of population to select bright minds from and they have a larger pool of money to use, both of which Russia lags behind China greatly.

  5. Todd Frohwirth says:

    The 117S TV engine tech is the story here.

    But I think there is merit in the US approach of constantly pushing the envelope of technology, cost be damned.

  6. nico says:

    Sure seems like the Chinese aren’t deny the rumors that they are going to buy some Sukois and new LADA class subs. The Russians seem to be more reticent, not surprising considering what has happened in the past….although, who else are they going to sell 20 to 30 SU35 fighters to????

    What is interesting coming out from Chinese posts is that the Chinese are buying the Sukois to be armed with new anti ship missiles. I guess they still want to sink US carriers with ASMs, maybe DF21 carrier killer isn’t quite ready yet….interesting to note,IMO.

    Other Chinese have commented that maybe they are buying the Sukois to be sort of F22 stand in…My thought takes this a little bit further, China is still very isolated , especially militarily. USA has recent war experience, RED FLAGS and other exercises, trains with UK, France,Italy,etc…who have also lots of experience, different equipment (Typhoon,Rafale, Gripen…), USA has a good idea of what is out there, USAF has it’s own MIGS to train against for crying out loud. What is China going to do, they can’t just train against each other? Maybe they feel that they need some different equipment like a SU35 to establish a “yardstick” and establish an aggressor squadron?

    If the buy is real,we will have to wait to see which service gets them…

    I also find the LADA sub buy intriguing. China has made progress when it comes to their sub fleet with new models and ramped up production, it is odd that they need to buy 4 LADAs, with 2 built in Russia and 2 in China.

    Finally,if true, I think India should be making a call to Russia and asking WTF??? They really are the ones most to lose here, India has to ask for assurances that PAKFA will not be sold to China at any price. I don’t think India would like to subsidize a fighter jet that is then sold to China, I think China would love to get it’s hands on a PAKFA to compare to their LO fighters….

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