China is “on track” with its sixth-generation fighter jet project, and the US Air Force needs to move forward with its own development, a US official has warned.
“I cannot tell you today what’s going on in China except they’re planning for their 20th National Party Congress. But I can tell you what’s not happening. They’re not having a debate over the relevance of six-gen air dominance. And I can also tell you they’re on track,” US Air Combat Command General Mark Kelly said during the Air and Space Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber conference, according to a report by Breaking Defense.
Kelly said China’s approach to sixth-generation fighters is similar to that taken by the US in the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, with an emphasis on stealth, advanced sensors and processing power, the report added.
China is also working on iterative development of the jet, drawing on its experience with incrementally improving the Sukhoi Su-27 platform, Kelly reportedly said.
“The US Air Force needs to make sure we get to six-gen air dominance at least a month prior to our competitors,” Kelly said at the conference, according to 100knots.com.
While China’s sixth-generation fighter jet development program is far more secretive than similar programs undertaken in the US, Europe and Japan, several hints have been made by Chinese officials.
In 2019 the chief designer of Chengdu Aerospace Corporation Wang Haifeng revealed that the company is conducting pre-research on a next-generation fighter and expects it to become operational by 2035.
At least several renders of aircraft that could be interpreted as sixth-generation fighter concepts may have been glimpsed during the 2021 Zhuhai Air Show, although their status remains unclear.