TechFlesh Blog

China’s fifth-gen stealth fighter prototype: the Chengdu J-20

The United States has the F-22. Russia has the Sukhoi T-50. And now, a series of recent pics shows that China has begun testing a second prototype of its own fifth-generation stealth aircraft, the Chengdu J-20.

These pictures come from various Chinese sources, including a government-backed newspaper, and seem to show a recent test-flight of the second J-20 prototype (the first one flew last year) at an unknown military airfield. If the J-20 looks sorta familiar, that’s because it’s (arguably) the body of a T-50 attached to the front of an F-22 with an F-35 nose.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about the J-20. In fact, people in the know aren’t even completely sure it’s a fighter at all.Compared to an aircraft like the F-22, the J-20 is very long (and probably heavy) without a matching increase in wing size, suggesting that it’s not intended to be agile like a fighter. It seems more likely that the J-20 is intended to be a long-range stealthy supersonic heavy interceptor. This is reinforced by the fact that the stealthy bit of the J-20 is really just its nose: from the back, it’s not very stealthy at all. The suggests that the J-20 is an attack aircraft, primarily designed to penetrate and destroy targets protected by complex modern air defense systems.

While the J-20 might not be able to stand up to an F-22 in a dogfight, the F-22 starts to run into problems when China can produce an estimated five J-20s for the cost of just one F-22. Even if that one F-22 is technically capable of shooting down five J-20s all by itself, it’s not going to have the range or endurance to do so in a combat scenario. The F-22 may, by all accounts, be a much better aircraft, but at some point, a J-20 Zerg rush by the Chinese would just not be possible to counter.