Dragon DRW51030 PLAAF Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon Stealth Fighter - Test Flight, Huangtian Airport, Shenzhen, China, 2011 (1:144 Scale)
"Politics is war without bloodshed, while war is politics with bloodshed."
- Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Tse-Tung
The Chengdu J-20 (Jian-20; literally "Annihilator-Twenty") is a fifth generation stealth, twin-engine fighter aircraft prototype developed by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group for the Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force. In late 2010, the J-20 underwent high speed taxiing tests. The J-20 made its first flight on January 11th, 2011. General He Weirong, Deputy Commander of the People's Liberation Army Air Force said in November 2009 that he expected the J-20 to be operational in 2017-2019.
The J-20 was one of the stealth fighter programs under the codename J-XX that was launched in the late 1990s. It was designated Project 718, and won the PLAAF endorsement in a 2008 competition against a Shenyang proposal that was reportedly even larger than J-20. Two prototypes (#2001-01 & #2001-02) have been built as of the end of 2010.
The J-20 is a single-seat, twin-engine aircraft which appears to be somewhat larger and heavier than the comparable Sukhoi T-50 and Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. Bill Sweetman estimates that it is approximately 75 feet (23 m) in length, has a wingspan of 45 feet (14 m) or more, and is expected to have a takeoff weight of 75,000 to 80,000 pounds (34,000 to 36,000 kg) with internal stores only. The prototype could be powered by twin 32,000 pounds (15,000 kg) thrust Saturn 117S engines provided by Russia, a sign of problems in the development of the aircraft, according to Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan. Chinese sources have claimed that production aircraft will be powered by two 13,200 kilograms (29,000 lb)/WS-10 class high thrust turbofan engines fitted with Thrust Vector Controlled (TVC) nozzles, both made in China. However Richard Aboulafia has said that the WS-10 engine has suffered catastrophic failures in flight.
The J-20 may have lower supercruise speed (yet greater range) and less agility than a Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor or PAK FA, but might also have larger weapons bays and carry more fuel. The J-20 has a long and wide fuselage and low jet engine intakes with a forward chine, a main delta wing, forward canards, a bubble canopy, conventional round engine exhausts and canted all-moving fins. The front section of the J-20 is similarly chiseled as the F-22 Raptor and the body and tail resemble those of the Sukhoi T-50 prototype. As early photographs of the prototype surfaced, Bill Sweetman commented that the design may suggest a large, long range ground attack aircraft, not unlike a "stealth version" of the General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark. Douglas Barrie has noted that the canard-delta configuration with canted vertical fins appears to resemble the MiG 1.42. Yet, Barrie notes that key differences include greater forward fuselage shaping as the basis for low observable characteristics, along with the different engine intake configuration. It is suspected that cyber espionage may have assisted the development of the J-20, with information used by subcontractors of Lockheed Martin for the F-35 project in particular having been significantly compromised during development of the J-20.
The J-20 may become the first operational combat aircraft that carries sufficient fuel to supercruise throughout its missions, doubling its sortie rate.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell has said that it was premature to call the J-20 a stealth fighter or to judge if it had any other fifth generation characteristics.
Pictured here is a 1:144 scale replica of a PLAAF Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon stealth fighter that was undergoing its test flight at Huangtian Airport, Shenzhen, China, during early 2011.
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Release Date: September 2011
Historical Account: "Large Thrust" - The J-20 has a pair of all-moving tail fins that are swept back in the F-35 style instead of being trapezoid like the F-22 and PAK-FA tails and ventral stabilizing fins. It also has an F-22 style nose section, but with F-35 style dropped nose, forward swept intake cowls with diverterless supersonic inlet (DSI) bumps and a one-piece canopy. It was reported in November 2006 that a T/W=10 17,000 kilograms (37,000 lb) class turbofan (WS-15/"large thrust") was being developed for the J-20. One (#2001-01) prototype is fitted with AL-31F, the other (#2001-02) is fitted with the improved WS-10G with a new "stealth" nozzle possibly to reduce RCS and IR emission.