Let’s Talk About Reports That China Used Stolen U.S. Military Technology For The J-20

Let's Talk About Reports That China Used Stolen U.S. Military Technology For The J-20


A Chinese language J-20 Mighty Dragon and a US F-22 Raptor (file images edited by The Aviationist for illustration functions solely)

Consultants have just lately warned that the PLAAF fifth gen fighter, due to the espionage efforts, is extra superior than it in any other case can be. However the actual query is: has China been in a position to catch up?

Consultants in the USA are warning that extra precautions ought to be taken to guard American army expertise from Chinese language espionage efforts, as China made enormous developmental leaps in army expertise due to stolen information. Due to this, the Chinese Chengdu J-20 “Mighty Dragon” shouldn’t be underestimated, said a report emerged few days in the past.

“What we all know is that due to the espionage efforts, the J-20 is extra superior than it in any other case can be, and that’s the vital level right here,” former Performing Underneath Secretary of Protection for Coverage James Anderson advised Fox News Digital in an interview. “They’ve profited significantly from their thievery over time, they’ve put it to good use, and so they’ve give you a sophisticated fifth-generation fighter.”

The event of the J-20 began someplace within the 2006-2007 timeframe, with the aim to design a warplane that will have the ability to compete with US fighters and with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force endorsing Chengdu’s proposal in 2008. The prototype flew for the primary time few years later, in 2011, adopted by no less than two different prototypes which confirmed a number of modifications, till the design was finalized for mass manufacturing in 2017 and the J-20 was inducted into service.

Since 2015 reviews famous similarities in expertise and functionality between the J-20 and US fighter jets, with some even declaring that a few of its expertise could have US origin. The J-20 demonstrated that China is starting to bridge the technological chasm with the USA due to its ongoing mental property theft, nonetheless Anderson famous that it’s tough to find out how the J-20 matches up against the F-22 Raptor “in need of precise fight.”

Throughout the interview with Fox Information, Anderson mentioned that China employs a wide range of espionage methods, starting from the straightforward and old-school spies, honey traps and bribes, to the extra fashionable cyber-attacks. He additionally famous that China spent over a decade pursuing information concerning the F-35 and the Joint Strike Fighter program and had some success stealing treasured information that helped the design of the J-20.

File photograph of Chinese language J-20s. (Picture: Chinese language web)

Matt McInnis, a senior fellow for the Institute for the Research of Battle’s China program, defined that the need to know the internal workings of the extra refined Western jet engines has been a substantial component of Chinese espionage. In reality, he mentioned that China has positioned its focus “virtually greater than anything” on buying jet engine expertise after “struggling for many years” to remain on tempo with the US.

Previously, China powered its fighter jets primarily with variants of the Russian-made Saturn AL-31 engine, which had been used as an interim solution on the J-20 in the AL-31FM2 variant. The Saturn engine was changed by the Shenyang WS-10, which was reportedly derived from each the AL-31 and the CFM56 engine (which powers Airbus A320-series and Boeing 737 airliners, in addition to the KC-135R tanker). Once more, that is an interim resolution whereas the ultimate Xian WS-15 engine undergoes flight testing.

The espionage within the engine sector was extensively coated final yr, when a Chinese language spy was convicted of trying to steal trade secrets from a number of US aviation and aerospace corporations, together with theft of proprietary airplane engine fan expertise. In response to prosecutors, the spy recruited specialists from GE Aviation and different corporations way back to 2013.

McInnis additionally talked about the latest information concerning the attempted recruitment of former Western pilots to advise and prepare the PLAAF pilots, one other matter that was extremely mentioned following the massive consideration it obtained from medias. In his opinion, McInnis says that between the information transferred by Russia and the information acquired trough espionage, China was in a position to cut back its expertise hole with the West from a 20- or 30-year hole to a 10- or 15-year hole.

James Hess, professor on the College of Safety and International Research at American Public College System, mentioned that in the end the US has to deal with China’s “philosophical distinction” and willingness to do what’s “finest for China.” As Hess defined, the Chinese language mentality sees the thief of information as a optimistic factor if it supplies a betterment for the society, as a substitute of worrying about it being a capital offense or not.

U.S. Air Drive Capt. Samuel “RaZZ” Larson, F-22 Raptor Demonstration Workforce commander and pilot, practices completely different maneuvers whereas coaching for the upcoming 2023 airshow season, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Jan. 6, 2023. (U.S. Air Drive photograph by Airman 1st Class Mikaela Smith)

Though they obtained some consideration on social media currently, China’s efforts to mimic U.S. fifth technology plane to develop their very own stealth fighters have virtually by no means been questioned: it’s broadly believed that China could have acquired info and expertise associated to the F-22 by cyber espionage and different means. However the improvement of superior army expertise typically entails a sure diploma of imitation and emulation of current designs, and this isn’t distinctive to China.

That being mentioned, constructing an plane requires a scientific endeavour and know-how in a number of completely different fields, spanning from aerodynamics, to materials science, to avionics, to propulsion. In different phrases, stealing some idea design or blueprint of a number of the core applied sciences will hardly permit a peer enemy to reverse engineer and develop a weapon system as superior as the unique one.

Due to this fact, essentially the most fascinating query isn’t whether or not it stole some particulars concerning the F-22 to construct its J-20, but when China has actually been in a position to catch up.

A very interesting article on this matter was revealed on Worldwide Safety, a very powerful journal within the discipline of strategic research, in 2019. Titled “Why China Has Not Caught Up But: Navy-Technological Superiority and the Limits of Imitation, Reverse Engineering, and Cyber Espionage”, it examines China’s efforts to mimic U.S. stealth fighters and the outcomes Beijing has achieved.

Listed below are some excerpts:

“In 2007, 2009, and 2011, Chinese language hackers entered the servers of the Pentagon and gained entry to some fifty terabytes of information containing the designs and blueprints of U.S. stealth fighters, in addition to different vital info. China has additionally relied extensively on conventional industrial espionage, together with the recruitment of former engineers and scientists who labored for Western aerospace organizations. Collectively, industrial and cyber espionage have given China intensive entry to American know-how. Furthermore, China managed to acquire an F-117 that crashed in Serbia in 1999, permitting it to examine, analyze, and probably reverse engineer the plane’s stealth options.”


“Nonetheless, China’s aerospace business has struggled enormously to mimic U.S. expertise. In 2017, China commissioned the J-20, a step that many analysts seen as the top of the U.S. monopoly on fifth-generation fighters. But, critical doubts persist about whether or not the efficiency of the J-20 comes even near that of the F-22. In reality, nameless Chinese language sources have admitted that China rushed the J-20 into service in response to rising tensions within the South China Sea, regardless of functionality gaps that make it inferior to the F-22.”

In the long run, the research says, “China’s wrestle to develop an indigenous plane engine throws into query the idea that China has closed the military-technological hole with the USA with respect to fifth-generation fighters. Probably, much more vital, it additionally illustrates that some great benefits of imitation that China has loved have inevitably been restricted.”

Briefly, whereas reverse engineering, industrial espionage, and cyber espionage can facilitate and speed up the method of imitating superior weapon techniques, it isn’t an easy or straightforward course of….

Stefano D’Urso is a contract journalist and contributor to TheAviationist primarily based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he is additionally finding out to realize a Grasp Diploma in Aerospace Engineering. Digital Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT methods utilized to the world of army operations and present conflicts are amongst his areas of experience.

David Cenciotti is a journalist primarily based in Rome, Italy. He’s the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of many world’s most well-known and browse army aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for main worldwide magazines, together with Air Forces Month-to-month, Fight Plane, and lots of others, overlaying aviation, protection, struggle, business, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown a number of fight planes with completely different air forces. He’s a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Drive, a personal pilot and a graduate in Pc Engineering. He has written 5 books and contributed to many extra ones.


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