Interceptor vs Fighter?

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10 years 8 months

Posts: 190

I'm just looking for more details on this subject. I've been arguing that the J-20 is not agile in the subsonic regime, and that it's more suited for transonic / supersonic combat. This, however, does not remove its ability to be an air superiority fighter; it's at least as capable as a F-35 subsonically (which isn't a high bar, true), but in the last few decades, the only American air-to-air losses have been to MiG-25s and other interceptor types.

The difference between an interceptor and air superiority fighter, it seems, is that while an interceptor can do BVR as well, if not better, as an air superiority fighter, the air superiority fighter can do WVR that the interceptor can't.

In this case, the Russian air load-out in the 1980s makes a lot more sense. The MiG-31s fulfilled the function of the US F-15 as a "high" component of the "high-low" mix, while the MiG-29s were the low aspect. The difference is, the F-15 and F-16s were both comparably capable in WVR, but the MiG-31 was BVR-only. Yet the overall Soviet combat mix was competitive.

Original post

Member for

10 years

Posts: 190

What is your source which leads you to believe that the J-20 is any less capable than its contemporaries in the subsonic regime ?
Sure a delta/canard suffers in sustained turn, but it is more than made up by the 'pointability' of its instantaneous turn.

An engagement will progress from BVR, to initial WVR, where pointability is most valuable, and by the time it gets to 'down and dirty' maneuvering where sustained turn is most important, all you may have left is guns.
I'm not even sure if the J-20 is equipped with internal gun armament, but if destined for the air superiority role, I would expect it to be.

Member for

10 years 8 months

Posts: 190

There's a few pilot interviews that suggest that the J-20 has F-16- or J-10-level maneuverability subsonically (, but with superlative supersonic maneuverability. The latter makes sense, the J-20 has long-coupled canards, huge elevon actuators, and is slated to receive TVC. I'd also state that the most recent rumors state that the J-20 currently has a gun emplacement, but no gun.

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Where I'd disagree is whether an engagement need to progress from BVR to WVR, when one side is significantly faster. In the First Gulf War, the Iraqi MiG-25s, despite being obsolete and monkey-model, performed very well against the USAF and scored the sole US air-to-air loss in the last few decades. If you are maneuverable enough to quickly change direction, and fast enough to escape your opponent, you can hit and run slower but more maneuverable planes.