China’s most advanced fifth-generation J-20 ‘Mighty Dragon’ is getting future-ready. A twin-seater variant of the J-20 stealth fighter jet will soon be equipped with powerful electronic warfare systems (EWS) and deploy swarm drones.
The J-20 is the world’s third operational fifth-generation stealth fighter jet currently in service with China’s PLA Air Force. The combat aircraft has evolved constantly since its maiden flight 10 years ago.
An article published by the Chinese military magazine Ordnance Industry Science Technology talked about the enhanced capabilities of the J-20.
This second crew member would be able to reduce the pilot’s workload by focusing on the weapons’ employment and coordination with more sophisticated electronic warfare equipment and technologies.
Earlier this year, China’s state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) had for the first time released a computer-generated image of the J-20’s twin-seater version.
This requirement has been felt by the PLAAF which seeks to fully harness the J-20’s intended capabilities. “The emergence of a twin-seat version of the J-20 is because the J-20’s mission has diversified and China needs a more capable fighter jet,” the article said.
It also said that the aircraft’s twin-seater variant would be equipped with more advanced equipment compared to previous variants. “It’s a piece of cake for the J-20 to perform [electronic interference] duties because of its strong power supply capacity, fire-control radar, and integrated avionics system,” it mentioned.
— Janes (@JanesINTEL) January 19, 2021
“We can imagine that the front pilot will be in charge of flying the aircraft, while the pilot sitting behind is in charge of controlling the electronic inference platform, making the J-20 a nightmare for enemy electronic equipment,” it said.
However, the usage of a second pilot as the WSO (weapons systems officer) or a navigator isn’t anything new in military aircraft. Most modern fighter jets and strike aircraft come with twin-seater variants, which are also beneficial for training purposes.
These weapon systems officers are responsible for employing relevant sensors and taking advantage of the full capabilities of the aircraft, like aerial reconnaissance sensors, electronic warfare sensors and jammers, and of course, the release of munitions.
Nevertheless, the latest J-20 version is likely to have more advanced weapon systems. According to the article, the second crew member would also be responsible for coordinating with swarms of drones — which “could be a bait to attract enemy aircraft or draw in stealth aircraft, and can also gather intelligence, carry out attacks against air defense systems and gain air superiority.”
The J-20 is a fifth-generation twin-engine stealth aircraft made by China’s Chengdu Aerospace Corporation for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).
The aircraft carries weapons internally, and its main weapon bay can carry both short and long-range air-to-air missiles (AAM; PL-9, PL-12C/D & PL-15 – PL-21) while the two smaller lateral weapon bays behind the air inlets are intended for short-range AAMs (PL-10).