“There’s little debate over those capabilities, which are clearly superior to what they were only a few years ago, and improving fast. But China’s intentions are harder to read. David Finkelstein, director of China Studies at the Center for Naval Analyses in Alexandria, Va., says that he shares the “great uneasiness about how China will use its incipient but growing maritime power” throughout the region, but also notes that in recent years China has concluded that “time is on their side on Taiwan” and thus have been “relatively more relaxed” than in the past.”
As someone who trains against real threats, I say worry. China, like Russia, needs cash money. They sell to how ever has the greenbacks. They reverse engineer our tech when they get the chance. They have been on a spending spree.
The first Zeros (pre-series A6M2) went into operation in July 1940. On 13 September 1940, the Zeros scored their first air-to-air victories when 13 A6M2s led by Lieutenant Saburo Shindo attacked 27 Soviet-built Polikarpov I-15s and I-16s of the Chinese Nationalist Air Force, shooting down all the fighters without loss to themselves. By the time they were redeployed a year later, the Zeros had shot down 99 Chinese aircraft (266 according to other sources).
At the time of the Attack on Pearl Harbor 420 Zeros were active in the Pacific. The carrier-borne Model 21 was the type encountered by the Americans. Its tremendous range of over 2,600 km (1,600 mi) allowed it to range further from its carrier than expected, appearing over distant battlefronts and giving Allied commanders the impression that there were several times as many Zeros as actually existed.
The Zero quickly gained a fearsome reputation. Thanks to a combination of excellent maneuverability and firepower, it easily disposed of the motley collection of Allied aircraft sent against it in the Pacific in 1941. It proved a difficult opponent even for the Supermarine Spitfire. Although not as fast as the British fighter, the Mitsubishi fighter could out-turn the Spitfire with ease, could sustain a climb at a very steep angle, and could stay in the air for three times as long.
Soon, however, Allied pilots developed tactics to cope with the Zero. Due to its extreme agility, engaging in a traditional, turning dogfight with a Zero was likely to be fatal. It was better to roar down from above in a high-speed pass, fire a quick burst, then zoom back up to altitude. (A short burst of fire from heavy machine guns or cannon was often enough to bring down the fragile Zero.) Such “boom-and-zoom” tactics were used successfully in the China Burma India Theater (CBI) by the “Flying Tigers” of the American Volunteer Group (AVG) against similarly maneuverable Japanese Army aircraft such as the Nakajima Ki-27 and Ki-43. AVG pilots were trained to exploit the advantages of their P-40s, which were very sturdy, heavily armed, generally faster in a dive and level flight at low altitude, with a good rate of roll.
—Mitsubishi A6M Zero, Wikipedia
“The real mystery surrounding the giant plane is; what will it be used for?
My guess is that it’s a high-speed interceptor along the lines of the famous MiG-25 Foxbat and MiG-31 Foxhound or that it’s meant to be a penetrating, F-111 or F-15E-style weapons truck designed to strike heavily defended targets like air bases or carrier battle groups. As you can see in this video, it certainly appears to have the weapons carrying capacity for either of these missions.”
—J-20 Stealth Fighter Doors Explained, Defense Tech.
The A6M bit the Army and Navy in the ass because no one paid any attention to advances in technology. The PLA is not building an F-22, it’s making a large deep strike aircraft.
“Even with allowances for Chinese technology not being as compact as Western technology (which I think is slightly a bogus argument in 2011) – that bird is big for a reason. I don’t think air superiority is it.” CMDR Salamander
Like the A6M (vs the Brewster Buffalo, P-40 et al.), the J-20 will face old, rusting 1970’s era fighters: F-5, F-16, F-18, Mig and yes even Chinese designs. Given that it’s stable mates are Su-27 copies, with better avionics and missiles, against the ROC, JASDF and other US allies, this will not end well. New carriers, new missiles, and the aircraft to back them up. There are no “Flying Tigers” to make these old warbirds work against the J-20. The PLA is slooowly updating it’s ground forces, but give it time. Coupled with advances in Surface to Air missiles, TBM/ICBM and now a true blue water navy, fear the dragon. They can wait as Congress guts our military. Our allies have arms shipments BLOCKED by a useful idiot bureaucracy and media that is asleep at the switch. Naval aviation is rotting. The USAF is facing huge problems getting it’s new aircraft to cheap enough to replace it’s aging fleet.
Will the PLA sell this to oil-sucking unstable dictatorships? Check.
Are there hotspots where China would risk going to war? Oh yeah.
With carriers, fighters and strike aircraft and battleships, Imperial Japan thought it could take Asia. China wants to take Asia, but they want to do it with economics, diplomacy and force. Desert Storm showed them that their low tech military was a thing of the past. The last 20 years they have been on a scary upgrade binge. Just like Imperial Japan after WWI.
I only hope that we don’t have to repeat the past. Before tactics and new designs appeared, the Zero claimed a lot of lives. The J-20 and it’s kin will reshape air warefare. I hope that the brass is watching because the PLA is watching them.
UPDATE: Via defensetech, The DOD’s China report says that this bird will “eventually give the PLA Air Force a platform capable of long range, penetrating strikes into complex air defense environments.” Patriot soldiers and AEGIS uses, you have been warned.