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China Has Big Plans to Shoot Down F-22 and F-35 Stealth Fighters

F-35 and F-22
F-35 Stealth Fighter. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Did China Develop a Heat-seeking Hypersonic Missile?: Reporting from China suggests that despite prodigious engineering challenges, scientists may have developed a deadly new missile. Such weapons could be a threat to the F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters. 

Chinese researchers claim to have built heat-seeking hypersonic missiles, a significant advance in the nascent technology.

“Precision guidance with infrared imaging technology is a force multiplier for hypersonic weapons,” a Chinese researcher reportedly stated.

“If one party takes the lead in processing mature hypersonic weapons, this party will have the absolute advantage of asymmetric attacks. With effective hypersonic precision strike weapons, the critical value of ‘strategic depth’ in traditional warfare will no longer exist. All the critical political, economic, and military assets of a country will be at risk.”

If Chinese claims are, in fact, true, the implications for opposing powers could be significant. For example, the United States Department of Defense notes that around ninety percent of the aircraft that have been lost since the 1980s have been downed by heat-seeking missiles.

Challenges Abound

Heat-seeking or infrared homing is difficult when flying at supersonic speeds. However, Chinese researchers claim to have finished “a series of core technology breakthroughs that were proven effective in tests,” according to reporting by the South China Morning Post. Nevertheless, the engineering hurdles are prodigious.

Objects moving at hypersonic speeds generate massive amounts of heat through the atmosphere, and mitigating the thermal energy caused by friction is a challenge. Furthermore, a hypersonic missile’s heat signature could overwhelm heat detection sensors.

Implications for the F-22 and F-35 

Stealth airplanes like the American F-22 Raptor are designed from the outset to defeat enemy radar and avoid detection. And while planes like the F-22 and F-35 can mitigate much of the threat posed by radar, the heat generated by jet engines remains a vulnerability — one that heat-seeking missiles exploit.

Some aircraft (notably the B-2 Spirit bomber and B-21 Raider) excel at masking their thermal signature by cooling engine exhaust as it leaves engines, though cooling exhaust to match ambient air temperature is virtually impossible.

F-22’s Waning Days

Irrespective of a Chinese hypersonic missile’s ability to detect and strike an F-22 Raptor — or any other fighter jet, stealthy or conventional — the F-22’s days are numbered.

Although the Raptor is nominally the stealthiest fighter jet to ever enter service with any military, the Air Force estimates that they would retire the air superiority fighter by around 2030, when newer and more capable sixth-generation fighters would take the F-22’s place.

What’s Next? 

Though certainly notable, the recent hypersonic missile reporting from China is not necessarily a death knell for the United States’ premiere stealth fighter — at least not yet. Testing hypersonic missile technology — even advanced heat-seeking technology in laboratory conditions is not identical to real-world testing.

Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. He covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for both print and radio. Follow him on Twitter @calebmlarson

Written By

Caleb Larson, a defense journalist based in Europe and holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. He lives in Berlin and writes on U.S. and Russian foreign and defense policy, German politics and culture.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. John Yusuf Mathew

    January 5, 2022 at 2:11 pm

    Why did the US allowed the Chinese to cause a this ripple?? The US need to counter this I can’t see a chinese world power never,

  2. Perry Vincent

    January 5, 2022 at 2:33 pm

    When you don’t have the muscle in a fight to win you do a lot of boosting

  3. David Barton

    January 5, 2022 at 3:10 pm

    Exactly!

  4. David Barton

    January 5, 2022 at 3:14 pm

    I wouldn’t trip on China. The United States military is the best in the world. China has been planning and trying to take over the world & I have total faith in our Military. The United States Military is the BEST & OUR PEOPLE WOULD NEVER ALLOW A COMUNIST SOCITY LET ALONE CHINA TAKING OVER OUR AWESOME COUNTRY. WE BEAT THEM BEFORE & WE WILL DO IT AGAIN IF NEED BE!

  5. American Doubter

    January 5, 2022 at 3:28 pm

    I say horse hockey, China has never been in a real war in it’s short lived life. They seem to steal most of their technology anyways. Anybody can say they have something, I say prove it.

  6. Jeffrey

    January 5, 2022 at 3:30 pm

    Want-a-be’s, always talk up what they dont have. Mostly what everyone is doing is going along with misinformation. If you have a weapon that takes an edge to the battlefield, you don’t tell the enemy. Fear mongering not appreciated.

  7. Clayton Evans

    January 5, 2022 at 3:42 pm

    Please , stolen from ? and when was the last time China shot down an aircraft , let me guess WW2 by the flying tigers

  8. Dan

    January 5, 2022 at 4:27 pm

    Yeah, blah blah blah. It’s the pilots ya idiots not the plane. America could mop the floor with your Paper Tigers in a WW11 era prop plane ya dinks.

  9. Robert Bennett sr

    January 5, 2022 at 7:24 pm

    If you have the upper hand do you boast about show your hand “hell no”. You pull it out at the right time and surprise everyone. The Chinese are great at stealing technology and pretty good at reverse engineering but, stink at creating their own equipment ie. engines and such. So excuse me if I’m not to excited about the news. “I’m sure America is pretty good at stealing tech too so if china has it we do to.

  10. Kody

    January 5, 2022 at 7:40 pm

    Why would they even try to shoot down a US jet it’s literaly impossible for them XD

  11. Kody

    January 5, 2022 at 7:43 pm

    This story also gave no proof of China wanting to shoot down a US jet let alone even being able to….XD

  12. Matt Brubach

    January 5, 2022 at 9:27 pm

    Caleb Larsen,

    Please update your credentials to say “Professional Public Policy Journalist and Chinese Penis Swallower”. Wooo hooo, the Chinese realized the value of heat seeking missiles 45 years after the rest of the world! Better late than never. You should contact the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy immediately, to demand a full refund of your tuition. They clearly failed to educate you. Just remember to take China’s dick out of your mouth before the call, or Willy won’t understand you.

  13. John H Delorenzis

    January 5, 2022 at 9:45 pm

    “Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the face”

  14. David W. Britton

    January 6, 2022 at 12:37 am

    If China truly had this technology, it’s because they stole it from the US. Also, they would not be bragging about it for fear of losing the inside people who allegedly stole the Intel.

  15. Greg

    January 6, 2022 at 12:48 am

    Rarely hear of the US boasting about new top secret weapons ( area 51 is probably full of them) but China feels the need to saber rattle. “Look what we have you better be careful”

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