Military Superiority: China's new Shenyang J-31 stealth fighter could be the equal of our F-22s and F-35s, U.S. pilots say, and is just one of the weapons that may thwart America's "pivot" to the Pacific.
According to the USNI report, it's believed the J-31 was developed using the Pentagon's nearly $400 billion Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.
In June 2011, Chinese hackers staged a cyberassault on Lockheed and other defense contractors, one of an ongoing series of attacks seeking to steal U.S. defense technology.
The J-31 is about the same size as the F-35 but appears to have sacrificed some payload capability in favor of improved fuel efficiency and speed.
Like the F-35, the J-31 is designed to fly off the decks of carriers, making these two planes the world's only carrier-based stealth fighters.
The J-31 will join the J-20 stealth fighter in the Chinese air force inventory, another plane based on stolen U.S. technology. In 1999 an American stealth F-117 Nighthawk bomber was shot down in Serbia, and the wreckage reportedly was passed along to the Chinese. A decade later, the J-20 fighter, a spitting image of our F-22 Raptor, took to the air, threatening to alter the balance of power in the western Pacific.
The J-20 took its first test flights in 2011 and is now in its fourth round of prototypes. A report issued by the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, said that based on available information, the Chinese stealth fighter will be "a high-performance stealth aircraft, arguably capable of competing . . . with the U.S. F-22A Raptor and superior in most, if not all, cardinal performance parameters against the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter."
As Bill Gertz reports in the Washington Free Beacon: "The F-35 data theft was confirmed after recent photographs were published on Chinese websites showing a newer version of the J-20. The new version of the radar-evading aircraft had incorporated several design upgrades since the first demonstrator aircraft was unveiled in 2011."
Into the mix enters the new flagship of the Chinese navy, the newly named aircraft carrier Liaoning.
Refitted from a ship bought from Ukraine, the ex-Soviet Varyag will have a limited role, mostly for training and testing ahead of the possible launch of China's first domestically built carriers, the floating air bases for the J-31, after 2015.
China's burgeoning blue-water Navy includes six nuclear attack submarines to go along with 53 diesel powered subs. Last December, a Chinese attack sub sailed through the Strait of Malacca, then disappeared, resurfacing near Sri Lanka and in the Persian Gulf.
Another of China's new weapons is the Dong Feng-21D missile, intended to give China "the capability to attack large ships, particularly aircraft carriers, in the western Pacific," the Pentagon's 2012 China report said.
The Chinese have also been testing a hypersonic glide vehicle, the WU-14, designed to evade U.S. missile and other defense systems, such as the Aegis sea-based missile shield guarding our Pacific fleet and carrier battle groups.
All of which is why Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, chief of U.S. Pacific Command, said at the annual Surface Navy Association conference in Virginia in January: "Our historic dominance that most of us in this room have enjoyed is diminishing, no question."
We'd better put a rush on that "pivot," Mr. President.
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