China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter Has a Problem

The Chengdu J-20 “Mighty Dragon” could have problems taking ‘flight’  after it was announced that Ukraine will halt the takeover of a domestic aircraft engine maker by a Chinese company.

by Peter Suciu

The Chengdu J-20 “Mighty Dragon” could have problems taking ‘flight’  after it was announced that Ukraine will halt the takeover of a domestic aircraft engine maker by a Chinese company. That move by the government in Kyiv seems to be in response to U.S. objections over the prospect of important military technology being accessible to Beijing.

According to a report from Nikkei Asia, Kyiv will return control of Motor Sich to Ukraine and essentially end efforts by Beijing Skyrizon Aviation to take management of the company.

At issue was that Beijing Skyrizon isn’t a private firm, but rather is an extension of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) military-industrial arm.

“The Motor Sich enterprise will be returned to the Ukrainian people,” Oleksiy Danilov, head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said after a March 11 meeting. “It will be returned to the ownership of the Ukrainian state in a legal, constitutional way in the near future.”

Had the sale gone through it would have allowed China to obtain a key defense technology that has reportedly eluded Beijing for decades. It has been one of the few remaining sectors where the United States and its allies have managed to retain a competitive advantage over China.

China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter Has a Flaw 

Breaking Defense reported that for many years, the proverbial “Achilles’ Heel” of Chinese airpower has been Beijing’s perennial inability to design and build reliable military jet engines. The PLA found that despite its best modernization efforts it has still had to rely on off-the-shelf engines imported from Russia. To break that dependence on imports, the PLA essentially adopted a mantra that if it couldn’t develop it – as in the engines – it would buy a company that makes them. In this case, it was the Motor Sich engine production conglomerate.

This has been deemed crucial as China has sought to develop a state-of-the-art fifth-generation fighter. However, the J-20 may look like a modern stealth fighter and may have even been developed from technology stolen from Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II, yet in test flights, the aircraft flew with two Russian-made Salyut/Lyulka AL-31F jet engines. Those are the same engines installed in the Su-27/30 aircraft as well as China’s J-10. It is third-generation propulsion technology developed in the 1980s to power the fifth-generation fighter.

Enter Motor Sich

Based in Zaparozhiye, Ukraine, Motor Sich is one of the largest aero-engine enterprises to be created following the dissolution of the Soviet Union nearly thirty years ago. More importantly, it has been described as one of the only companies that could design and build a reliable and efficient engine to meet the needs of Beijing. As Breaking Defense also reported, the other major aero-engine companies from the former Soviet Union are all in Russia but have lost so many personnel that current Russian engine programs end up being cooperative efforts that are anything but efficient.

Beijing isn’t reportedly pleased by the decision, but Kyiv has opted to prioritize its relationship with a crucial security partner.

“Ukraine, being in a state of war, cannot afford to hand over the enterprise, on which the Ukrainian defense capability depends, into the wrong hands,” Danilov said in a television appearance the following day, according to local media.

As a result, not for the first time, the J-20 is looking like a Not-so-Mighty Dragon, at least if it continues to rely on engine designs older than its pilots.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

(c) National Interest


  • “However, the J-20 may look like a modern stealth fighter and may have even been developed from technology stolen from Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II, yet in test flights, the aircraft flew with two Russian-made Salyut/Lyulka AL-31F jet engines.”

    They obviously didn’t steal the important bits, the ones that make it fly. If China have to rely on Russia for engines, then they are no superpower as many people claim. Maybe they should concentrate on developing engines instead of developing a bat virus.

    Liked by 6 people

  • How about a quid pro quo Joe?
    Such as: strengthening Ukraine’s defences to such an extent that a further attack by the putinazis will result in catastrophic losses for the enemy?
    That could easily be done with just some of the $billions being wasted on shithole countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan etc.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I will never understand the reason behind handing out countless billions to trash countries that will never improve. The biggest change we see is the explosive population growth this money makes possible. Burning the money in a stove will at least cook you a meal or keep you warm.

      Liked by 5 people

  • The list of military technology that bat virus has stolen from the United States and other highly-developed nations is a long one. However, the chinks use not only information from theft but utilize much know-how from companies that it has acquired in those same nations. Observe Ukraine’s Motor Sich as bat virus land’s newest and currently most highlighted effort. The chinks enjoy proclaiming their willingness to “invest” and to “expand markets” and to “save” jobs. But, their real goal is collecting know-how and to integrate this into their economic and military capabilities. The developed countries must focus much more on this problem and even in such places as Ukraine. It is important to know that, despite mafia land’s aggressiveness, it is bat virus land that is the bigger danger.

    Liked by 5 people

  • The bat virus proves what evil nationalism and arrogance are hiding behind the red commie flag, very similar to RuSSia, but way more dangerous. China costs the US trillions in the defense budget to keep the fuckers at bay. Putin pulled off his bullshit in Ukraine because nobody was expecting it, all were focused on China. It will be quite an effort to contain China, RuSSia and the islamic fuckerz at the same time. Nato is too small and has too many traitors as members to deal with these new challenges.

    Liked by 5 people

  • Putin complains that he feels still a little pain on the spot where he was injected against corona……………what a sissy this man! Order to kill, to poison someone he takes before breakfast every day.

    Liked by 5 people

  • stanleyankiewicz

    A Chinese national hacked into its defense contractor computers to steal plans for the F-22 and the F-35.
    That data alone wouldn’t be enough to pull off a truly stealthy design. Those blueprints don’t reveal everything, it’s also how it’s built, from the construction processes to all the little details in terms of design tolerances and things like
    disruptions in surface smoothness from hatches and panels.
    It may not matter if the J-20 plays the Lada to America’s Ferrari. It’s not supposed to take on the F-22. The jet’s real threat is its ability to use what little stealth it does have to penetrate a conflict zone and attack aircraft supporting front-line combatants, like refueling tankers and AWACS surveillance airplanes, and other big targets.

    Liked by 4 people

  • The J-20 is barely Reduced Radar Signature. The lines look good but are not much better than a F-18 Super Hornet. There is a lot more aspects that go into stealth. on the canopy is a circular bar that reflects a LOT of radar. . if you look a a pic of the F-22 the US uses a fall bubble canopy to avoid that.
    The forward canards improve maneuverability but also reflect a lot. To give the 22 greater maneuvering the US used vector thrusting.
    Then there is engine issue. not only is stealth radar signature but also IR. bright flairs of heat show up for miles. If you look at the thermal signature of an F-35 the heat signature is very homogeneous, there is no flaring to lock on to.
    The F-35 has the RCS of the size of a golf ball. The J-20 is about two orders of magnitude bigger.

    Liked by 2 people

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