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  • With China rising fast as a strong  contender for the new global superpower,  

  • many are wondering who would win in a battle  between China and the USA. The US, which has  

  • traditionally paid close attention to Russian  capabilities, is now looking across the Pacific  

  • as China develops new and more technologically  capable military equipment and weaponry.  

  • Besides Russia, China and the US are currently the  only other countries in the world to develop fifth  

  • generation fighter jets, though only the US's jets  are currently ready for frontline service. The US'  

  • formidable entry into this category is the F-22  Raptor, while in the late 2010s, China debuted  

  • its own Chengdu J-20 fighter jet. Who would  win in a fight between these two powerful jets?

  • First of all, you might be wondering what  the big deal is with fifth generation  

  • fighter jets in the first place. Are they really  that different from fourth generation fighters?  

  • Or is it like when your teacher makes  you buy the brand new fifth edition  

  • of a textbook, only so you can then  discover the only change is the font.

  • Well, the truth is that the difference  between successive generations of fighter  

  • jets is astounding. Fifth gen  fighters jets are so powerful,  

  • and feature so many upgraded capabilities, that  they pretty much render fourth gen jets useless in  

  • any fight against them. Countries vying for  global influence, such as the US and China,  

  • know that failing to keep up with such  developments in military tech, especially  

  • in the Air Force, can make all the difference  between winning and losing potential wars.

  • At first glance, one might think that the US would  have significantly more advanced military tech  

  • based on its spending alone. In 2020, China's  official defense budget amounted to $179 billion.  

  • However, it's important to note that outside  sources, including the International Institute  

  • for Strategic Studies (IISS) and the Stockholm  International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI),  

  • estimate the actual Chinese military budget to  be closer to $225 to $261 billion. The average  

  • of these institutes' estimates puts China's  military spending at around 1.9% of GDP.

  • A recurring theme in this comparison will  be that China, perhaps understandably,  

  • plays its cards close to the vest and is less  than transparent about its military specs.

  • The US, on the other hand, has haddefense budget of approximately 3.2% of GDP  

  • over the last few years, with 2020's defense  budget estimated at around $718 billion.  

  • If we take these numbers into account alone,  

  • it seems there's no way any of China's tech or  military would be able to match the US soon.

  • However, those direct comparisons don't take  PPP, otherwise known as Purchasing Power Parity,  

  • into account. Though the Chinese budget is  smaller, Chinese products and salaries are  

  • also relatively cheaper than in the USand this extends to the military as well.  

  • So taking PPP into account, “China's  spending is worth about 75% that of the US”.  

  • Still less, but nowhere near as wimpy as  the original GDP numbers make it sound.

  • Zeroing in on the fifth gen  fighter jets of each country,  

  • let's compare the F-22's and  J-20's specific capabilities.

  • Many aerospace consultants and other  experts complain that China ripped  

  • off much of the design for their J-20s from  the US F-22's, designed by Lockheed Martin,  

  • via cyberattacks and espionage. That may be  one reason why both aircraft have a ceiling of  

  • 12.4 miles (20 km) and a max speed of just over  Mach 2 - approximately 1,535 mph (2,470 km/h).

  • One of the key differences is in the jetsrange. The F-22 Raptor has a combat range  

  • of 497 miles (800 km) while the J-20 has a much  larger range of 684 miles (1,100 km), thanks to  

  • a larger fuel tank. The F-22 has an actual range  of 1,840 mi (2,960 km), but that's when it flies  

  • with two external fuel tanks, which would  not be the case in a combat situation.

  • That might sound like an advantage for the  Chinese at first; however, Zhou Chenming,  

  • a Beijing-based military expert, pointed out  that China's J-20 was only introduced in 2017,  

  • and has yet to be tested in a real  combat situation. On the other hand,  

  • the US Raptors have been in use since  2005, and employed in combat situations  

  • around the world, including in the  Middle East, Singapore, and Okinawa.

  • Besides the J-20s being relatively  untested, another advantage for the US  

  • is the sheer number of F-22's that have been  made. China has around 50-60 J-20s in total,  

  • while the US currently has 187  operational F-22s, with 8 more in testing.

  • When it comes to specific capabilities, such  as the weapons the Chengdu J-20 can hold,  

  • experts have had to make educated guesses  since China refuses to release many details.

  • The J-20 has a broad but shallow weapons  bay which can hold between four to six  

  • long-range missiles or bombs. We know the F-22 can  

  • carry up to six missiles for either  air to air or air to ground combat.

  • The weapons each jet carries are important, but  they may actually be less important than each  

  • jet's stealth and detection capabilities. The  F-22 is incredibly hard to detect and track,  

  • giving it a natural stealth advantageAfter all, the best weapons in the world  

  • can't shoot what the plane's technology can't  see. The J-20 is thought to be similarly hard  

  • to detect from the front, howeverthere are elements on the aircraft's  

  • sides and engine nozzles that may make  it more susceptible to radar detection.

  • The next great consideration is  maneuverability. In a dogfight,  

  • the more agile jet will usually win the day.

  • However, it is also important to note here that  the increasing speeds and weapon range of modern  

  • day fighters have rendered dogfighting much less  important - and frequent - than it used to be. In  

  • fact, the only US aircraft to have been involved  in a dogfight in the last 20 years was in 2017,  

  • when a US Navy pilot shot down  a Syrian fighter. Generally,  

  • pilots these days are trained  to avoid or negate dogfights.

  • That being said, maneuverability still gives  jets tactical advantages in non-dogfight  

  • situations. Many observers, especially those  who closely watched the Zhuhai 2018 airshow,  

  • believe China has overstated  the Chengdu J-20's capabilities.  

  • Military experts believe it is probable that  China's J-20 is less maneuverable in a dogfight,  

  • and therefore at a disadvantage  against the more agile F-22.

  • Others point out that the J-20 was made  to function optimally with high-thrust  

  • WS-15 engines, which China is  struggling to refine and produce.  

  • Therefore, current J-20s are relying on less  optimal Saturn AL-31F M2 turbines imported  

  • from Russia, which would definitely  affect their current maneuverability.

  • China did recently announce that they will start  mass production of the J-20B, a more agile line  

  • of fighter jets, in July of 2020. Though these  might pose a bigger threat to the US air force,  

  • many reports of China producing updated and  mightier aircraft have proven to be false,  

  • and it seems this may be the case  with this news release as well.

  • Overall, the lack of specifics known about  the Chengdu J-20 due to China's tendency  

  • to keep details about their military  specs and military program secret,  

  • combined with the Chinese government's  habit of releasing misleading reports,  

  • makes a comparison of the J-20  and the USA's F-22 very difficult.

  • Most military experts believe that currentlythe F-22 would handily beat the J-20 in a fight.  

  • However, some are concerned about the  future because China is continuing to fund  

  • and refine its J-20 production program, while  significant updates on the F-22 have stalled,  

  • especially since F-22 manufacturing  facilities were shut down in 2011.

  • Another concern is the missiles the  J-20s are carrying, known as PL-15s;  

  • one of the top air to air missiles in the  world. PL-15s have a much higher effective  

  • range than their current US counterparts, the  AIM-120s, and are built with top of the line  

  • anti-jamming technology, which its US counterparts  don't necessarily have. However, the Pentagon is  

  • currently focused on developing the brand new  JATM - Joint Advanced Tactical Missile - which  

  • they are convinced will be the best air  to air weapon in the world when completed.

  • Even with the Pentagon developing new air to air  missiles, and the F-22 probably forging ahead with  

  • scheduled upgrades in the 2020s, thus pushing it  further ahead of J-20 in terms of modern tech,  

  • observers caution that the J-20 is at  the relative start of its production run,  

  • meaning the advantage may shift to China over  time if the US isn't careful. A recent comparison  

  • of Chinese and US air superiority from 1996 to  2017 by RAND shows a rapidly closing gap in air  

  • force capabilities between the two countrieswhich would seem to reinforce this concern.

  • Who do you think would win in a fight? Does  the Chinese J-20 stand a chance against  

  • the F-22 Raptor, widely considered  the premier fighting jet worldwide?  

  • Let us know in the comments. Now go  check out more comparison videos!

With China rising fast as a strong  contender for the new global superpower,  

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US Air Force F-22 vs China's J-20 Fighter Jet - Which Would Win? Military Unit Comparison

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    Summer posted on 2021/02/12
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