China is testing a new fighter that might be able to outmaneuver Taiwan’s F-16s, US sources said.
Known as the J-11D, the Chinese fighter is a modified version of Russia’s Sukhoi Su-27 “Flanker.”
The aircraft is produced by China’s Shenyang Aircraft Corp (SAC).
Popular Science magazine reported that it was first flown last week from an SAC airfield.
Photographs from that test flight show the plane has a new radar dome and most likely has an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.
“Other Chinese sources indicate [that] it may have a new advanced cockpit, better electronic warfare systems and an upgraded version of the WS-10A Taihang turbofan engine,” International Assessment and Strategy Center senior fellow Rick Fisher told the Taipei Times.
He said that if the reports are valid, then the J-11D could match — and in some areas exceed — the performance of Taiwan’s F-16 fighters now undergoing upgrades to receive AESA radar.
“If the engines are a more powerful version, combined with the J-11’s larger wing, they could also give the J-11D a maneuverability and performance advantage over the F-16,” he said.
Fisher said the J-11D was the second AESA-equipped fourth-generation fighter slated to enter the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) air force.
“The first was the AESA-equipped Chengdu J-10B, which completed development and is now in production for the PLA Air Force,” he said.
According to Fisher, these developments “sadly show the inadequacy of Washington’s resolve to fulfill policies set forth in the Taiwan Relations Act.”
He insisted that the decision by the administration of US President Barack Obama to limit Taiwan’s air power modernization to radar upgrades for its fleet of F-16s was inadequate.
“It is still necessary to invest in Taiwan’s air force, which can provide a crucial element for deterrence,” Fisher said.
He said that given the expense of new production fighters, the US should offer Taiwan an immediate sale of 60 F-16s that can be upgraded with the same AESA radar, to replace its increasingly obsolete French Mirage 2000 fighters.
Fisher is also urging the Obama administration to offer Taiwan the engine, electronics and weapon systems to enable a second-generation Indigenous Defense Fighter with a performance that would exceed the F-16.
However, a Pentagon source on Tuesday told the Taipei Times that he had seen “no indication” that the Obama administration was ready to take such a step.
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