China's next generation jet fighter may have many of the capabilities of America's F-35 Lightning stealth fighter (shown above). Credit: UK Defence Journal.

In its ever-expanding push for military superiority, China has set its sights on a next-generation stealth fighter on par or greater than America’s F-35, that it hopes to field by 2035, says the chief designer of the Chengdu J-20.

According to the Global Times, the description of advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities and systems appears to mirror that of the F-35, meaning that it has an autonomous computerized ability to gather, organize and present an array of otherwise disparate pools of information for pilots, National Interest reported. 

Quoting J-20 designer Yang Wei, the paper states, “a future fighter jet will generally require a longer combat range, longer endurance, stronger stealth capability, a larger load of air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons, and the functionality to provide its pilot with easy-to-understand battlefield situation images and predictions.”

The emphasis of technologies engineered to provide pilots with “easy to understand” warzone intelligence aligns almost exactly with the often-discussed F-35 “sensor fusion,” National Interest reported.

In an F-35, data from 360-degree cameras, long-range electro-optical targeting, navigational details, threat warning systems and other variables such as speed, altitude and angle of approach, are all compiled, distilled, analyzed, integrated and presented to pilots on a single screen. 

At the same time, Artificial Intelligence is figuring prominently when it comes to early conceptual work and prototyping pertinent to US sixth-generation stealth fighter work, National Interest reported.

Perhaps even more data, including electronic warfare, space, radar warning receivers, cyber and as-of-yet- unknown types of indicators will increasingly be incorporated into onboard AI systems.

Advanced algorithms can quickly perform analytics upon a vast array of incoming information, bounce it off a seemingly limitless database and make near real-time decisions, computations and analyses, National Interest reported.

America’s high-tech F-35 Lightning stealth fighter has often been referred to as a flying computer, because of its AI capabilities. Credit: Lockheed Martin.

Improving the speed of decision-making and providing clarity for pilots are often referred to as “easing the cognitive burden.”

These are the fundamental tenets of AI-empowered programs, therefore explaining the sought-after emphasis for a new generation of Chinese stealth fighters. 

Referencing the famous, US-created OODA Loop concept (observation, orientation, decision, action), the Chinese paper refers to its next-generation fighter as developing “OODA Loop 3.0.”

The OODA Loop refers to how quickly a warfighter or unit can make a decision. The idea is you will lose the advantage and initiative if the enemy’s OODA Loop and decisions/reactions are faster than yours, National Interest reported.

Of course, China would love to have superior OODA Loop for its upcoming stealth fighter compared to America’s F-22 or F-35.

Conformal sensors woven into an aircraft fuselage, often called “smart skins,” are thought of as examples of newer applications likely to form sixth-generation fighter construction.

Additional or new stealth configurations, advanced weapons such as lasers, adaptive engines and the “ability to command drones,” are all attributes cited in the Chinese report. 

While much has been discussed regarding the stealthy exterior of China’s fifth-generation aircraft with respect to it appearing as a transparent or deliberate F-35 rip-off, less has been known about the internal technical specifics of advanced Chinese fighters.

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