Chinese military experts have conducted a study comparing US fighter jets and concluded that the F-35 poses a greater threat in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait than the F-22 Raptor.
Despite the F-22’s reputation as the most powerful stealth aircraft globally, the findings suggest that the newer F-35 poses a greater threat to Chinese forces in these particular regions.
According to the SCMP report, the study was published in the Chinese language journal Modern Defense Technology. The research examined the threat posed by different US military aircraft during a penetrating counter-air operation at varying distances from China’s coastline.
The F-22 and F-35 warplanes were found to be posing a “significant” threat to Chinese defenses throughout different stages of the operation.
The study suggests that the F-35A will likely be more adaptable and efficient in any potential conflict in China’s nearby waters.
The research highlights the aircraft’s ability to perform multiple functions and its potential to carry out various missions as key factors contributing to its superiority over the F-22.
The Chinese researchers said, “The F-35A poses a greater threat than the F-22A due to its more advanced avionics systems and multirole capabilities.”
The F-35 fighter aircraft has emerged as a significant asset in the region due to its state-of-the-art technology, exceptional capabilities, and remarkable adaptability in a wide range of military operations.
The United States and its allies are already operating a considerable number of F-35 fighter jets close to China.
But the F-22s, unlike the F-35s, are not widely available and are exclusively operated by the United States. Additionally, they are often deployed on a rotational basis due to their limited numbers.
Furthermore, by 2035, more than 300 F-35 warplanes are projected to be stationed in the Indo-Pacific region. Several nations, including Australia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States, are among the key users.
The deployment of these advanced fighter jets in large numbers is a testament to their importance and effectiveness in modern military operations.
Bao Junchen from the National University of Defense Technology in Hefei led a team from the People’s Liberation Army’s Unit 31649 in Guangdong province and suggested a dual strategy to counter the threat.
With firsthand knowledge of Chinese military strategy and tactics, the authors propose that China improve its electronic warfare capabilities for “soft kill” actions and create physical weapons for “hard kill” responses.
Since the F-35A can serve as both a sensor for intelligence gathering and a primary escort for forward attacks, the study recommended using non-destructive (soft kill) and destructive (hard kill) attack methods against it.
Beijing views the US military’s concept of a penetrating counter-air operation as a significant threat. It is investing heavily in developing its own military capabilities to counter Washington’s power projection in the Asia-Pacific region.
The United States maintains a considerable military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, with military bases located in Japan, South Korea, and Guam.
Therefore, in the last few years, China has deployed a wide range of modern weapon systems, notably the HQ-9 missile system and the J-20 stealth fighter. Over the past few years, Beijing has also increased the production of its J-20 stealth aircraft.
The J-20 twin-seat variant in flight
These weapons aim to counter the US strategy of penetrating air defenses and targeting high-value targets such as airfields and command and control centers. The researchers suggested that studying the F-22 and F-35 can help China develop effective countermeasures and protect its airspace.
The research also recommended a coordinated strategy to counter B-2 and B-1B bombers as they threaten China when infiltrating deeper into Chinese territory.
Moreover, the Chinese experts further recommended a multi-dimensional approach to attack incoming bombers using various weapons platforms simultaneously from air, land, sea, and space.
While the study found the MQ-9 drone less threatening, they warned against disregarding more advanced drones like the XQ-58A and RQ-180.
Nevertheless, the authors used an analytic hierarchy process (AHP) instead of artificial intelligence to assess the threat level of each aircraft, providing a more nuanced evaluation.
But the raw data was not provided due to military sensitivity, making it difficult for other researchers to verify their findings.