Understanding China, One Blog at a Time

An American in China

Re-Blog About US and China War Tech

Posted by w_thames_the_d on January 23, 2011

Interesting take on the new arms race between the US and China, from here.

from http://blog.loadingdata.nl

Are the U.S. making the same mistakes that cost Germany the war?

Last night I was watching an episode of “The Genius of Design” about wartime design. In this episode they discussed the difference between German design and Allied design, most notably the difference between the German Tiger tank and the Russian T-34 tank.

As any Discovery Channel watcher would know, the Tiger tank was by far the superior, there are documented cases of one Tiger tank defeating over ten T-34′s. In a one-on-one battle no Allied tank would stand a chance. However, it was so over-engineered that it cost a fortune to build (DM 250.000, which would translate into US$ 1.5M today) The Soviet T-34 on the other hand cost RUB 270.000 (US$ 780.000 today) at the start of the war and a mere RUB 142.000 (US$ 320.000 today) by the end of the war. Beside the cost, it was also much simpler and thus quicker and easier to manufacture.

By the end of the war, Germany had produced 1.347 Tiger I and 492 Tiger II tanks, while Russia had build over 84.000 T-34 tanks (45 times as many). Although a single Tiger tank was far superior to any other tank, it was no match to a swarm of T-34s.

Chinese Chengdu J-20: Fifth generation stealth fighterNow, what does this all have to do with the United States and present day? While I was watching this program I couldn’t help to think of the latest scare the Chinese military gave the United States. In the last weeks the Chinese Airforce leaked pictures of test flights of their new fifth generation stealth fighter plane. This came as a total shock to the Americans, who have recently began fasing out their comparable F-22 Raptor in favor of the smaller and lighter F-35 JSF, believing they were decades ahead of any serious competition.

Of course American experts were quick to point out that on many points their planes are still superior, especially with regards to stealth, radar integration of multiple airplane, etc. They may or may not be right, the point however is that there are 187 F-22 planes in operation. The costs to build one are: US$ 140M, plus about US$ 250M in R&D. Operation costs are a little of US$ 3M per year. If the Chinese has understood one concept, it’s mass production of adequate products. The projected costs of building a J-20 fighter plane are expected to be 50 to 80% lower than the F-22. That means the compared price will be even lower than during WW2.

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