The basic thing for being a fifth generation fighter plane is that it must have stealth profiling. That means the surface must be shaped in such a way that it deflects radar waves anywhere else except back to radar. The surface absorbs radar waves to some extent. Another important thing is Supercruise ability, this is achieved by having a high power engine and internal weapon bays. Fourth generation Aircrafts carry weapons loaded on their wings this increases drag and hence with weapons being loaded they can't go supercruise. The aircraft must achieve speeds beyond speed of sound and must be able to deploy weapons at that speed.
Fifth generation Aircrafts have better awareness with sensors and jammers all around their airframe. The data from these sensors is processed and showed on pilot's function display so that pilot must be alert about threats in the nearby environment. The Fifth Generation Aircraft is armed with beyond visual range weapons, that means it must be able to release a weapon from that much far that the enemies don't see it. For this purpose they are equipped with AESA (Advanced Electronically Scanned Array) Radar.
This article is an attempt to rank the fifth generation fighters according to their capabilities in battlefield. I have considered only those aircrafts which are either operational or have flying prototypes. Besides the aircrafts in this list their are many ongoing projects developing fight generation aircrafts.
So here we are.........
#6 Shenyang J 31.
Many people call it J 21 snowy owl, gyrfalcon and many more. F 60 is the export variant. The J 31 is also assumed to be either copied or modified version of Lockheed F 35. Actually it has got some similarities with F 35 but isn't a copy. The F 35 airframe is quite mature but the less experience of Chinese designers is clearly visible in J 31.
There are very less official data available so I have to rely on just unofficial things. If you look at its airshow video it is clear that the airframe without leading edge extensions bleed a lot of energy and the pilot had a hectic time keeping time the nose upwards. It showed a long smoke trail that suggests Chinese hasn't worked on reducing the Infrared signature of the aircraft. The conventional round exhaust and no use of 3 D thrust vectoring makes me comment that in terms of airframe design it just old bread in a new package.
Although there is no official confirmation or release but J 31's chief designer Sun Song said that new prototype includes. The differences include a stealthier cockpit, a next-generation helmet mounted sight, holographic cockpit displays, EOTS, aerodynamic revisions and more. So while wondering what is this EOTS , I think it may be an internally carried targeting system just like that at the Chin of F 35. Although not visible on prototypes but production variant may have it.
It can be safely assumed that it will have an AESA radar and Own Engines. It will also be equipped with ECM devices integrated into the airframe. Official from AVIC claimed that additive manufacturing was extensively used on the aircraft, resulting in 50% reduction in components compared to similar aircraft. However, the resulting airframe cannot be disassembled, and the static test frame had to be transported in whole as consequence.
All an all J 31 is a low level fifth generation combat aircraft with limited capabilities. It may have been made for export. But it should be seen how many units are orders by it's home AirForce. It is believed that it would be ready for low rate production by 2019.
#5 Mitsubishi F 3.
Actually F3 is yet to fly , the currently flying Mitsubishi X2 is it's predecessor only meant for testing and demonstration of stealth technologies. That would be used in F 3, but the design would be largely similar and the project has been defined, a prototype is flying so it is safe for me to put this one in list for fair comparison.
There are many capabilities in X2 that hasn't been reported in many other Fifth generation fighters. The aircraft features 3D thrust vectoring capability. Thrust is controlled in the ATD-X by three paddles on each engine nozzle which the Americans say is similar to the system used on the Rockwell X-31, while an axis-symmetric thrust vectoring engine is also being developed for the full-scale production model. There is a feature so-called 'Self Repairing Flight Control Capability' (⾃⼰修復⾶⾏制御機能), which will allow the aircraft to automatically detect failures or damage in its flight control surfaces, and using the remaining control surfaces, calibrate accordingly to retain controlled flight.
In it's avionics it will have an AESA radar and also ECM, ESM functions along with microwave weapon functions. These things are loudly telling the ambitions if the Japs and that F 3 will be a 'one of a kind' aircraft. That is why it deserves a respectable position.
#4 Chengdu J 20.
Do not consider this one so weak for being Chinese. This may have been ranked to a low number 4 but because technical data related to this are not available in public. The J 20 would dominate Asian AirSpace and would fly unchallenged over all Chinese disputed territories once fully operational. Many people think that J 20 was copied from Mikoyan LMFS , but I don't believe this rumour and I have reasons for that. J 20's design is genuine.
The Design of J 20 is advanced and would have been challenging for Engineers at Shenyang Aircraft Corp. Featuring a Canard Delta wing design along with outward canted all-moving fins, short but deep ventral strakes, and conventional round engine exhausts. One important design criterion for the J-20 describes high instability. This requires sustained pitch authority at a high angle-of-attack, in which a conventional tailplane would lose effectiveness due to stalling. On the other hand, a canard can deflect opposite to the angle-ofattack, avoiding stall and thereby maintaining control.
The Senors of J 20 are completely shrouded in secrecy. But seeing the Experience of Chinese in Aviation field. It is difficult to believe that J 20 would consider any 'one of a kind' type of sensor. The Chin mounted Electro Optical Search and Tracking device is similar to F 35. The nose cone is believed to house the Type 1475(KLJ-5)active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar with 1856 transmit/receive modules. But what's so new in that??. Chinese company A-Star Science and Technology has developed the EOTS-89 electro-optical targeting system and EORD-31 IRST for the J-20 and potentially other PLAAF fighters to detect and intercept stealth aircraft. In the recent images of J 20 relased on the occasion of Zhuhai Air Show 2016. Many analysts and observers noted a large amount of sensor suite all round J 20. The chin mounted EOTS-89 was noter to be sizeably bigger than F 35's EOTS. Six discreet low profile window apertures were noted around the body suggesting it to be some EO-PDS sensor similar to F 35's DAS.
An article on the website Plarealtalk.com even went on claiming that the long vertical grey strip on port and starboard side of J 20 could be sideward facing radar. The leading edge slats were noted to be wholly grey indicating it a dielectric covering consistent with an antennae, It is assumed to be a wing mounted radar. All these observations could be true if so J 20 deserves to be ranked at equal level with F 35. But since neither the existence nor the quality of these sensors is verified. The J 20 can't be placed at better rank.
Many people raised doubts about use of Canards on 5th generation aircraft, as canard configuration increase radar cross section and compromise stealth. This statement in not true in all cases.
Radar crosssection can be reduced by controlling canard deflection through flight control software, as is done on the Eurofighter. The diverterless supersonic inlet (DSI) enables an aircraft to reach Mach 2.0 which is a critical parameter. So J 20 has supercruise capability. But this factor depends on Engine. The Chinese are said to be lagging behind in making an engine for such a heavy fighter. And that flying prototypes of J 20 are powered with Russian Saturn 117s engines. Chinese source stated that the design of J-20 is mature and it will not directly use 117S engine.The production version of the J-20 is believed to be powered by the WS-15.
It was difficult decision , but as there is no data available about it's sensors and we simply can't rank aircrafts on the basis of assumptions. I ranked J 20 at 4th. Otherwise it deserves better.
J 20 still remains a primary concern for all western air superiority.
# 3 Lockheed F 35 lightning ll.
Their had been many negativity being spread about F35 but at the end from the point of view of a defence enthusiast 'performance matters'. The Lockheed F 35 is not just one aircraft but a family of many aircraft's having same design roots. This is the primary reason for its costs because it has to satisfy multiple needs which involves multiple tests, multiple line of codes in software.
The F 35 is considered one of the most sensor packed aircrafts and has so many data fusion and automatic functions that it is almost a flying robot. Apart from having normal things like AESA radar , it has a uniquely placed Electro Optical Targeting System mounted on it's chin which does the work of an externally carried targeting pod. Its electronic warfare suite does the work of providing sensor fusion of Radio frequency and Infrared tracking functions, advanced radar warning receiver including geolocation targeting of threats, multispectral image countermeasures for self-defense against missiles, situational awareness and electronic surveillance, employing 10 radio frequency antennae embedded into the edges of the wing and tail. This makes it alert like hell and able to target beyond enemy's field of view. Moreover it has Six additional passive infrared sensors are distributed over the aircraft as part of Northrop Grumman's electro-optical AN/AAQ-37 Distributed Aperture System (DAS), which acts as a missile warning system, reports missile launch locations, detects and tracks approaching aircraft spherically around the F-35, and replaces traditional night vision device.The F-35’s DAS is so sensitive, it reportedly detected the launch of an air to-air missile in a training exercise from 1,900 km away, which in combat would give away the location of an enemy aircraft even if it had a very low radar cross-section.
Some more peculiar things about it are that The F-35 does not need to be physically pointing at its target for weapons to be successful. Sensors can track and target a nearby aircraft from any orientation, provide the information to the pilot through their helmet (and therefore visible no matter which way the pilot is looking), and provide the seeker-head of a missile with sufficient information. To eliminate the target at BVR ranges.
But then why it us ranked 3rd. Because there are many things which go in negative direction. The F 35 has less range than required for a long range ground attack mission. It can't carry much load on its internal weapon bays. That we all know.
the F-35’s helmet shows high false-alarm rates and computer stability concerns, seriously reducing pilots’ situational awareness and endangering their lives in combat.
Owing to these reasons F 35 makes its 4 th generation enemies pee in their pants, but poses a serious threat from it's real 5th gen. competitors.
#2 Lockheed F 22 Raptor.
Many people would get disappointed by seeing F 22 on 2nd place but there are genuine reasons for this. To know them read what I want to say. World's first fifth generation fighter. When cold war was at its peak US wanted an air superiority aircraft that can combat any Soviet design. The answer came in this form. It was made operational in 2006 and is very costly to operate.
The exact radar cross section is classified but is assumed to be 0.0001 m². This not a peculiar thing for me. What makes F 22 special is that the F-22 was also designed to have decreased radio emissions, infrared signature and acoustic signature as well as additional measures to reduce the infrared signature include special paint and active cooling of leading edges to manage the heat buildup from supersonic flight. It's stealth relies less on RAM. The F 22 may be hyper stealth from front and may have reduced its heat signature but during an exercise a Eurofighter Typhoon's IRST scanner claimed to have detected F 22 at a distance of 50 kms. This claim makes us think that a more powerful IRST scanner of Pak-Fa can also detect F 22 from same ranges. This makes F22 vulnerable.
The F 22 has got some really amazing sensors. Its main AN/APG-77 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar can detect targets up to 210 kms. Pretty less than that of Pak-Fa. One peculiar thing here is it's BAE Systems EI&S AN/ALR94 radar warning receiver (RWR). The RWR is a passive radar detector with more than 30 antennas blended into the wings and fuselage for all-round coverage. Experts had said the ALR-94 can be used as a passive detection system capable of searching targets and providing enough information for a radar lock on. But except its main Radar all other sensors are passive, they can track threats around but can't detect them. Whereas Pak-Fa's sensors are active backward facing AESA radar and IRST scanner can not just detect but can guide a missile while Pak-Fa turns its back to the enemy.
The F 22 can carry 6 BVRAAMs and 2 SRAAMs at its best and can also carry smart air to ground weapons like JDAMs and SDBs. But the F 22 if carry a laser guided bomb cannot self designate the laser guided weapons. Its cannon has a retractable door to maintain stealth.The radar projection of the cannon fire’s path is displayed on the pilot’s head-up display. The F 22 has got ranges limited to that of Pak-Fa forcing me to put this awesome fighter beneath in comparison.
The BadAss Americans airframe combined with most advanced avionics make F 22 a symbol of west's technology domination. Soon the elder brother a sixth generation aircraft would come.
#1. Sukhoi PAK-FA.
Surprised to see this one here??
The Sukhoi Pak-Fa is a Russian all weather fifth generation aircraft. This aircraft has got all the capabilities required to be a fifth generation aircraft but as it has been placed on rank #1 in this list I must tell you what makes it no. 1. The Aircraft is simply the most advanced fifth generation aircraft available. Many people raise doubts about its stealth saying that it's radar cross section is 0.0004 m² almost four times greater than that of 2nd rank F 22 Raptor but stealth is a part of survivability and PAK-FA is survivable. Stealth isn't the only criteria for a fifth generation aircraft.
It's frontal radar NIIP N036-1-01 X band AESA can look at a distance of 400 km. It has got sideward and backward looking AESA Radars that are N036 L and N036 B. An inbuilt targeting pods Ultraviolet warning sensors and two infrared search and tracking devices one on its spine and one just above its nose. There are many more avionics but are believed to be kept secret. I think they must have made an advanced version of Sorbicija Jammer. This jammer takes input waves from enemy's targeting radar and reflects back phase shifted signals.( it shows false target position to enemy).
More manoeuvrable than all fifth generation aircrafts with record rate of climb it also have 3D thrust vector capability. Despite of the fact that future air to air battles would be BVR in nature . But it takes very less time to come WVR with each other then it is all the game of manoeuvrability and jamming.
It's range is 5500 km more than any other stealth fighter. It is also be designed to be able to carry BrahMos ALCM. So it can be used for long range ground attacks by low budget air forces that can't afford bombers. Other weapon package is very regular.
Talking about its stealth , It's frontal RCS is less and has partially serpentine Intakes which hides 70% of engine fan blades. Its frontal IRST is turned backwards when not in used and is treated with stealth coatings. The latest prototype '056' has its engines covered from outside. This thing silences the argument that not much attention has been given to stealthiness at the aft side if T50's airframe.
Owing to all these reasons I conclude that Pak Fa is best.
The Ultimate ruler of the sky.
Conclusion :- Making a fifth generation fighter is not a joke, It requires decades of experience, warfare experience, fully developed industrial support base, market size optimisation, strategic thinking and most importantly a big pocket. Except USA no other country ever attempted to develop a stealth aircraft but still have performed better here. Owing to other points being pressed significantly.
Please let me know your views about the article.
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