A number of Chinese media outlets have reported that a J-20 fighter jet with a novice pilot managed to score 17 kills for zero losses in mock combat drills – which has widely been considered a testament to the aircraft’s combat prowess.
The reports of the J-20’s victory was based on a publication from the official newspaper of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), PLA Daily, although it is notable that the paper did not specify which fighter had achieved the kills – only that one of the PLA Air Force’s new jets had done so.
Given that the J-20 is the heaviest and most advanced fighter in PLA service – quite possibly in the world – it has been widely presumed that the feat was accomplished by a J-20 fighter.
Similar feats have been reported by the U.S. Air Force’s own fifth-generation heavyweight fighter, the F-22 Raptor, which could comfortably score 5-0 victories against F-15C fighters.
This was despite the F-22 lacking many advanced technologies that give the J-20 an edge, notably including distributed aperture systems, helmet-mounted sights and AESA radar-guided missiles.
It was not specified what kind of fighters the victorious has been facing in exercises, but if the aircraft were older Russian built models such as the Su-27 or Su-30, or lighter Chinese jets from the 2000s such as the J-10A, they the advantage the J-20 would have enjoyed would have been very significant.
It is also possible, however, that a fighter other than the J-20 managed to achieve the 17-0 kill ratio. The PLA’s newest fighter, the J-10C, is a ‘4++ generation lightweight platform that entered service in 2018.
The fighter integrates many of the same technologies as the J-20 including its revolutionary PL-15 and PL-10 missiles and similar sensor, electronic warfare and stealth coating technologies.
The J-10C has reportedly won overwhelming victories against high-end fighters in the past such as the Russian Su-35, and particularly at close ranges could well score overwhelming victories against older jets.
The lightweight fighter is considered the most maneuverable in the world, with an extremely high thrust/weight ratio and three-dimensional thrust-vectoring engines.
Combined with its PL-10 missiles which can fire at extreme angles, this makes the J-10C almost impossible for older jets to defeat in close range engagements.
Whichever fighter was being flown, the fact that the score was achieved by a pilot with only 100 hours of experience in the aircraft demonstrates the level of technological prowess the PLA is bringing to the battlefield.
New Chinese aircraft including the J-10C, J-20, and J-16, and in future the J-11D, J-15B, and J-31, are increasingly leaving older generations of fighters obsolete – including the elite Russian Su-30 fighters acquired in the early 2000s which at the time formed the elite of the PLA fleet.
The U.S., for its part, has similarly seen reports emerge that novice pilots in its new F-35 fighters, which integrate many of the same types of technologies as the J-20, have scored major victories against much more experienced pilots operating older aircraft.