J-20 Chengdu – Stealthy Air Superiority Fighter of Chinese Air Force – Mighty Dragon of China
J-20 Chengdu is a Stealthy Air Superiority Fighter Jet of Chinese Air Force. J-20 is also called as “Mighty Dragon” in China. It was designed to compete against 5th Generation Fighters.
Chinese J-20 was first appeared in media in 2010. It was designed to compete against fifth-generation fighters, such as a US F-22 Raptor and advanced forth-generation fighters, such as a Russian Su-57 (previously known as PAK-FA). It is speculated, that development of the J-20 was assisted by the Russian MiG aviation company. After collapse of the Soviet Union this aviation giant suffered from loss of orders and uncertain future. Externally the J-20 strongly resembles a cancelled Russian MiG 1.42 multi-role fighter.
The MiG 1.42 demonstrator was first publicly revealed in 1999. It made its first flight in 2001, however the Russian program was suspended due to funding problems. It is rather unusual that photos of this stealthy fighter aircraft came out even before the first flight, considering that all Chinese military programs are kept in high secrecy. However during the last decade China has taken a more transparent approach to its military programs. Still though there is little official information on this plane.
J-20 Fighter Jet
When the first photos appeared some sources suggested, that this aircraft is a high-flying long-range interceptor. Other sources suggested, that it might be a long-range interdictor or tactical bomber. The J-20 is actually a medium- and long-range air superiority fighter, like the US F-22, which might also have a secondary ground attack capability. Actually the new J-20 is an advanced forth-generation fighter, rather than a true fight-generation fighter.
Still though it easily outclasses older forth-generation fighters, such as the US F-16 or the Russian Su-27. This aircraft made its first flight in 2011. By 2015 at least 5 prototypes were built. Low-rate initial production commenced in 2015. This new Chinese aircraft was first publicly revealed only in 2016. First operational J-20 stealthy fighters were delivered to Chinese air force in 2016. The J-20 fighter was officially adopted by the Chinese air force in 2017. Some sources report, that China plans to produce 570 of these aircraft.
The new J-20 has a canard-delta configuration, blended fuselage with low radar cross-section, and large canted twin tails. This Chinese fighter has two large internal weapon bays for long-range air-to-air missiles and two small sidebays for short-range air-to-air missiles. Missiles are stored in these weapon bays in order to reduce the radar cross-section. It also has large fuel tanks for long-range missions. It carries more fuel and weapons than the American F-22 Raptor. Furthermore this aircraft is capable of high speed operations.
As of 2016 it is unknown what engine this new stealthy aircraft is using right now. Some sources reported, that its engine might be of a Russian origin. These might be the AL-31 turbofan engines, originally developed for the Soviet Su-27 air superiority fighter. It was planned that the J-20 will be equipped with indigenous WS-15 engines, however these are not yet ready. It is worth noting, that one area, where China is particularly weak is jet engines. It is speculated that China may be as much as 10 years away from producing original indigenous engines for their stealth aircraft.
The J-20 is not the only fighter aircraft program, that is running in the Chinese aviation industry. In 2012 China revealed another stealthy aircraft – the J-31. It is smaller than the J-20 and is about the same size as the F-35 stealthy multi-role fighter. Currently Chinese government pays enormous attention and devotes high level of resources towards production of advanced fighter jets, that could be on a par with the most capable US and Russian fighters.