via National Interest.
China made the decision to operationally deploy the J-20 despite its technical problems because of the threat posed the by Lockheed Martin F-35, according to the SCMP’s source. Indeed, more of the stealth fighters are scheduled to join the PLAAF later this year. “It’s urgent for China to show off its achievements as soon as possible,” the source said.Story here.
However, while Beijing is trying to rush the J-20 into service to counter the F-35, the Chinese machine is not likely to be a directly analogue to the American jet or its stablemate, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. The J-20—which appears to be larger than Raptor—is more likely designed to attack the support elements that hold American air operations together such as tankers, AWACS and JSTARs radar planes. Over the vast reaches of the Pacific, where fuel is at a premium, destroying a tanker could achieve the same result as shooting down an enemy fighter.
China is developing the ramjet-powered PL-15 that could have a range as great as 120 miles. The PL-15 weapon has caused consternation within the top-ranks of the U.S. Air Force with Air Combat Command commander Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle citing the Chinese weapon as one of the pressing reasons for the United States to develop a next-generation replacement for the decades-old AIM-120 AMRAAM.
“How do we counter that and what are we going to do to continue to meet that threat?” Carlisle asked during a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in 2015. Later, during an interview with Flightglobal, Carlisle said that countering the new Chinese missile was an “exceedingly high priority” for the U.S. Air Force. “The PL-15 and the range of that missile, we’ve got to be able to out-stick that missile,” Carlisle said.
Indeed, the problem is not just that the PL-15 would out-range the AMRAAM, when coupled with the J-20, the Chinese could attack the tankers and ISR aircraft that would be the key enablers during any air campaign over the Pacific. A 2008 RAND briefing suggested that in order to sustain F-22 operations over Taiwan from Guam, the U.S. Air Force would need to launch three to four tanker sorties per hour to deliver 2.6 million gallons of fuel. That’s a fact that has not likely escaped Beijing’s notice.
I like Dave and he's played it as down the middle as possible when it comes to the F-35 controversy, but this article is curious as hell.
And I think he's missed the reasoning behind China's move.
The Chinese are as aware of the F-35's shortcomings as anyone in the West. I'm sure they scour websites and forums looking for info on the F-35. They truly understand that the plane is not ready for primetime.
So if the F-35 isn't a threat then why did they rush the J-20 into service?
To save face.
Asian culture is fascinating to me. To be publicly embarrassed, humiliated etc...will not stand. Wait. It's a bit more complicated than that and words escape me to properly describe it, but saving face is very important. It dates back centuries but is still common enough to help understand actions on a personal and even international level.
That's one reason why Trump doesn't worry me on any issue except China. If the Chinese leadership are backed into a corner they will hit back. Don't get me wrong. I don't fear the Chinese but I think I understand them. Things that would require the turning of the cheek by US presidents and population to prevent hostilities are the same issues in reverse that would start WW3 if we did it to the Chinese.
Take the artificial islands for example.
If Japan, S. Korea or God forbid the US did the same to them in international waters the Chinese leadership would have sent warships to destroy the construction equipment.
Which brings me back to the F-35.
The Chinese don't fear it, but they did see a need to show the world and their own population that they aren't scared and that they could match us. So what are we left with? Two stealth fighters operating in the Pacific that aren't ready for combat. Two countries that are posturing with equipment that doesn't work. This boys and girls is how you stumble into wars you aren't ready for.