Though both aircraft are positioned as air superiority fighters, the magazine’s defense analyst doubts that the J-20 could be called as such.
“Overall, the J-20 could be the more useful machine if it was used as a strike aircraft,” the article says.
The analysis goes further, that if Russia was predicting for whatever reason in a conflict with China, the war would most likely take place on Russia’s territory rather than in China, specifically in Russia’s Far East.
“Range will be an important factor. While there is no specific information available about the range performance of either the J-20 or PAK-FA, given the size of the Chinese aircraft, one suspects it has longer legs. It probably also has a much greater payload.”
The Sukhoi PAK FA, also known as the T-50, had originally listed a maximum speed of 1,520 mph (2,446 kmph), or March 2.35, which was then reduced to March 2.1, and, ultimately, to March 2 (1,330 mph, or 2,140 kmph at sea level). Its cruising speed would be 1,120 mph (1,802 kmph).
Its listed ferry range is 3,400 miles (5,471kmph), and it has an operational service ceiling of 65,000 feet (19,812 meters).
According to the data available on the J-20, it can climb at a rate of 304m/s. Its maximum speed is 2,100km/h. The range and service ceiling are 3,400km and 18,000m respectively.
These metrics favor Russia’s fighter.
While both are positioned as stealth planes, “it’s hard to say what would happen if the two were to meet head on in an aerial battle,” The National Interest states. “There has never been an instance where two stealth aircraft have met in an air-to-air encounter. “
“If the J-20 and PAK-FA prove to be genuinely stealthy, an aerial engagement might devolve into a within visual range dogfight.”
In such case, it says, “the J-20, which is powered by engines intended for the Sukhoi Su-27, is at a huge disadvantage”.
“But if both sides have high off-boresight missiles and helmet-mounted cueing systems, with a little luck, the J-20 might get a lucky shot—however, the PAK-FA probably still has the edge.”