Upgraded China stealth fighter prototype to take flight

(From Popular Science)

By Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer

J-20 “2016” makes a play for the skies

This week officers of the USAF officers gathered in at the Gaylord Hotel and Convention center for the Air Force Association’s annual Conference. Among the panels at #AFA2015 were generals speaking on “Fifth Generation” weapons and new stealth jet programs like the F-35. But perhaps they should have also shared the stage with leaders from China, which just showed off another new stealth jet prototype.

Fifth generation fighters, like the American F-22 and F-35, Chinese J-20 and Russian PAK-FA, blend together supersonic endurance, stealth and sensor fusion as force multipliers against older fighters like the F-15 and Su-27. This week, Chengdu Aircraft Corporation, one of China’s top air manufacturers, rolled out “2016,” the seventh J-20 prototype/preproduction fighter since 2011. Flying seven fighters puts the J-20 ahead of the five PAK-FA fighters, the only other non-US flying fifth generation fighter.

China's upgraded J-20 2016

China’s upgraded J-20 2016

Notably, this prototype shows how the program is advancing its design and capabilities through the stages of testing and development, a sharp contrast to how parallel US 5th generation jet fighter programs have pushed off most upgrades to the future, in order to try to keep initial costs down. The runway photos show several key differences compared to the older J-20s, as Chinese engineers work overtime to optimize the J-20’s performance for its projected 2017 debut. Most interesting are the J-20’s engines. Compared to its “2014” and “2015” predecessors, the J-20’s fuselage contains more of engine’s surface area inside the stealthy fuselage, which would provide greater rearwards stealth for the J-20 against enemy radar. Read more


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