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Take to the skies
China’s Knockoff F-35

A new Chinese fighter jet was unveiled at the Zhuhai International Air Show, and it bears a suspicious resemblance to America’s own latest and greatest “fifth generation” fighter jet, the F-35. USNI News reports:

The J-31 is China’s latest crack at developing a modern so-called fifth-generation stealth fighter — equivalent in ability to Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor or F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter.

“They’re still in the glossy brochure phase of development, so they still look ten feet tall and bulletproof,” one senior U.S. fighter pilot familiar with the F-35 program told USNI News.

“I think they’ll eventually be on par with our fifth gen jets — as they should be, because industrial espionage is alive and well.”

Though there’s no word yet on whether the Chinese plane functions like the American one, since so far it has only been observed at an air show demonstration. But the news that China could be capable of building the equivalent of our best aircraft should galvanize anyone who doubts our need for smarter military spending, or reform of the Pentagon’s outmoded procurement policies. If America can no longer maintain a dramatic technological lead on its military competitors, then both smarter policies and smarter thinking are needed to render that loss manageable. We hope the new chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee is paying attention.

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  • Fat_Man

    If they copied the F35, it is not a military threat, because the F35 doesn’t work.

    • Josephbleau

      I think that this is the greatest intelligence war coup of all time, make a good weapon F22, Then cancel it and make a bad one F35, then the enemy steals and copies the bad one, genius. Most people in China want to eat, another group wants high pay and goodies, the communist party class wants power by threatening war. The first will win.

  • S.C. Schwarz

    They’re bigger than we are, they’re richer than we are, and they still have the political will to invest in an effective military, so naturally they are on their way to returning to their usual place as the preeminent world culture.

  • FriendlyGoat

    We need to start “fleshing out” what those smarter policies and smarter thinking might be. The idea that America can be at war with China, Russia and Islam all at once is not very realistic. Our politics, in practice, do not really drill down to these thorny levels.

    From our most recent election, for instance, Iowans elected a military officer who plans to “make ’em squeal”. Her side of the Iowans mistakenly thought she meant some pigs other than the general citizenry, of course, but they’ll soon find out that’s not the case. Meanwhile, the sound bite was the depth of thinking there, and reflects how really far we are away from “smarter thinking”.

    • Jacksonian_Libertarian

      I’m surprised that you think the Government Monopoly could operate in any other way than inefficiently, wastefully, and corruptly. You are probably a leftist that thinks you can make the Government Monopoly better, while thinking Capitalism is evil. And I think you completely missed the point on what Joni Ernst was saying, she was talking about taking the power from the Democrats in the Senate that have abusing it for so long.

      • FriendlyGoat

        I know what Joni Ernst was SAYING. But what she is going to support will turn out to hurt citizens more than lib politicians.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Please, I have serious doubts about the Chinese ability to build American quality fighter planes. They haven’t yet been able to build Russian quality jet engines, and they have been trying for over 20 years. It’s easy to build a mock up of military hardware, the Iranians do it all the time, but you never see this hardware in combat.

  • jony101

    we should invest in radar to detect these stealth fighters. I think china problem is acquiring engines that work, but boeing can help them for a price.

  • qet

    The emphasis on the pure technology–the sophistication of the electronic components, the material science of the materials used for the airframe, the geometry of the airframe, etc.–has always been misplaced. Military advantage consists in the ability to mass produce and mass operationalize weapons platforms and systems. Remember–the key term is “military-industrial complex.” And the military component involves recruitment, training, deployment, logistics. Look, we could deliver 3 aircraft carriers to China tomorrow and they would be unable to use them properly. The US military advantage is the product of 70 years of development in all areas, not just in building faster airplanes. This was always the disadvantage of the Soviets, whose design engineers were among the best in the world but who could not maintain to a level anywhere near the US the complex institutions that are a modern “military.”

  • f1b0nacc1

    The Chinese have an impressively capable espionage service, and they have demonstrated the ability to steal a great deal of Western technology, while (semi-)legally copying still more. This has given them the ability to produce some putatively functional prototypes, which (along with those licensed or simply stolen from the Russians), they have manufactured quite a few aircraft and other military hardware. This expertise has not extended into areas where they cannot (or have not yet) stolen technology, notably aircraft engine manufacture, or advanced sensor fusion software, both of which are critical elements in modern fighter aircraft. Most notably, however, they have also failed to identify a useful doctrine for using what they steal, often simply building aircraft that do not fit in with their other forces merely because they already have the designs on-hand.
    If, indeed the Chinese can deploy an F-35 clone (and I agree with Fat_Man that this turkey of an aircraft is utterly worthless for its stated missions), there is little reason to assume that this will work out well for them. From what we know about existing Chinese air doctrine, there is very little role for this aircraft that isn’t filled by those already in their inventory or in advanced development. China has a different set of needs (as well as vastly different capabilities) than that of the US, and it is naïve at best to assume that the same designs that work for us (even if we assume that they would work for us) would be useful for them. This all strikes me as more than a little bit of ‘Cargo Cult’ thinking on their part….

  • Anthony

    Congratulations to China if indeed such is the case. But “get” gets it right relative to technological lead and competitors.

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