Beijing: China, which in recent years tried to catch up with the US in the design and production of new generation warplanes, is trailing the American air force in the development of the sixth-generation fighter jets by several years, according to a media report.
America is leading the world in the sixth-generation fighter jets with the US Air Force saying it has flown a prototype a milestone that is still years away for China, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday.
The US has two fifth-generation fighters in service: the Lockheed Martin F-22 and F-35, both with stealth, supersonic cruise, super maneuverability and superior avionics.
Though lagging behind in the development of aircraft engines, China has produced a variety of new generation fighter aircraft including the stealth fighter, J-20 which is officially stated to be the fourth-generation fighter jet.
The bulk of its advanced jets mostly comprise of Russia’s Sukhoi aircraft, including Su-27, Su-30KK and Su-35S, besides J-15 which has been specifically developed to operate from the decks of the aircraft carriers being developed by it.
China currently has one aircraft carrier, Liaoning, a refit of the Soviet-era ship which was commissioned in 2012 and the second indigenously developed carrier, Shandong, is undergoing sea trials while the third one is under construction.
The official media report says China plans to have six aircraft carriers.
While focussing on the up-gradation of avionics, China’s new generation aircraft mostly rely on Russian engines.
Also, China which helps its all-weather ally Pakistan to jointly produce JF-17 fighter jets, recently upgraded it with new Block-3 version.
The upgraded JF-17 fighter jet featuring the technologies of China’s stealth fighter J-20 made its maiden flight early this year in the Chinese city of Chengdu.
JF-17 Thunder, which was previously referred to as FC-1 Xiaolong, was previously a single-engine multi-role light fighter jointly produced by the two countries for several years with engines supplied by Russia.
China’s fifth-generation fighter project began in 1997, but it was not until 2011 that the Chengdu J-20 had its first flight, and 2017 when it entered the service.
Wang Haifeng, the chief designer of Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group, which makes the J-20, confirmed earlier that China had started working on its next-generation fighter.
“We have chosen and supplemented some technological features in line with various war scenarios,” the Post quoted Wang as saying.
“I believe in 2035 or earlier you will see these efforts translated into powerful weapons to defend our airspace,” he said.
The features of the future jets are still unknown but Wang said the aircraft could involve the application of artificial intelligence, extreme stealth and omnidirectional detection.
He also mentioned laser weapons, self-adapting engines and hypersonic weapons as technologies that had the potential to change the future of warfare.
Besides the US and China, Russia is at work on a sixth-generation combat plane, testing some of its technologies on the fifth-generation Su-57.
A model of the Franco-German Future Combat Air System by Dassault and Airbus was also on display at last year’s Paris Air Show, with its maiden flight set for 2026.
The British sixth-generation fighter Tempest by BAE reportedly had a wind tunnel test in August and is expected to be ready by 2035.