The designer who worked on China’s Chengdu J-20 fighter plane says the country is thinking about the next generation of warplanes. China is already developing the J-20 into the family of aircraft. Yang Wei told the Chinese media that the country has the technical expertise to develop any aircraft they want to develop. A deputy director of science & technology at Aviation Industry Corp of China and a member of the Chinese Academy of Science said, “We are not complacent about what we have achieved. We will develop the J-20 into a large family and keep strengthening its information-processing and intellectual capacities. At the same time, we will think about our next-generation combat plane to meet the nation’s future requirements.”
The advanced fighters like China’s j-20 and America’s F-22 and F-35 represent what is called the fifth generation fighter planes by the warplane experts. So far there are no sixth-generation fighters in service. There is also no consensus on what such a fighter plane will look like. A sixth-generation fighter will be able to carry forward characteristics of the previous generation like built-in stealth and the ability to fly with the speed of sound. The advanced capabilities will include laser weapons, advanced communications, and networking, active defense systems which can shoot down the incoming missiles, artificial intelligence, and also the ability to control drone swarms.
The J-20 took almost 20 years to develop. Its development began in the early 1990’s when the aircraft was known in the west as J-XX. The information about the existence of the plane was revealed in 2011 when images of a flyable prototype were leaked during a visit by then US Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates. Apart from the twin-engine J-20, China also has the FC-31 which has the size similar to the American F-35. If a similar development timeline is followed, a Chinese sixth-generation fighter can be ready by the late 2030s. Many technologies which can make a next-generation fighter such as lasers and AI are currently under development. The technology will more likely make it to the J-20 in the form of upgrades before it is deployed on an entirely new plane.
Yang declared China’s new independence in the world of aerospace. He acknowledged that the country built copies of other countries’ designs for decades. However, that era is now over. He said, “In the past, we had to follow others’ paths when it came to designing military aircraft because our research and development capabilities were primitive in this regard, but now we have become capable of designing and making what we want to have.”
Yang claims that the J-20 will apparently be the first of a large family of aircraft. The twin-engine J-20 is a very big plane and also has room to grow. Analysts were confused on whether the airplane will develop into a long-range fighter or long-range attack aircraft. Other possibilities also include an electronic warfare and air-defence suppression aircraft as compared to the US Navy’s EA-18G Growler. The J-20 also has the capability to refuel other planes with a limited ability to extend their combat range.