Chengdu J-20

The Chengdu J-20 (simplified Chinese: 歼-20; traditional Chinese: 殲-20) is a stealth, twinjet, fifth-generation fighter aircraft prototype being developed by China’s Chengdu Aerospace Corporation for the Air Force (PLAAF). The J-20 made its first flight on 11 January 2011, and is expected to be operational in 2018.

China’s J-20 platform has the potential to be a capable, long-range strike system in the Asia-Pacific region, with low rate initial production appearing to have begun as of January 2016.

Prototype test plane no.2015 @cdn.media.worldjournal.com



The J-XX program was started in the late 1990s. A proposal from Chengdu Aerospace Corporation, designated Project 718, won the PLAAF endorsement following a 2008 competition against a Shenyang proposal that was larger than the J-20.

In 2009, a senior PLAAF official revealed that the first flight was expected in 2010–11, with an service entry date by 2019.

On 22 December 2010, the first J-20 prototype underwent high speed taxiing tests outside the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute.

“2101” is the first airframe in the inaugural production batch of J-20 fighters @nextbigfuture.com

China is flying the first airframe in the inaugural production batch of J-20 stealth fighters

The first J-20 squadron expected to be fully delivered by year’s end, the China Flight Testing Evaluation regiment will being developing operating procedures, tactics and technical proficiency to bring the J-20 to combat readiness. At this pace, it is expected that in 2017-2018, the Chinese Air Force will have its first operational stealth fighter squadron. Source @nextbigfuture.com

More J-20 Stealth Fighters Built in China: Here


Flight testing

On 11 January 2011, the J-20 made its first flight, lasting about 15 minutes, with a Chengdu J-10S serving as the chase aircraft. After the successful flight, a ceremony was held, attended by the pilot, Li Gang, Chief Designer Yang Wei and General Li Andong, Deputy-Director of General Armaments.

On 17 April 2011, a second test flight of an hour and 20 minutes took place. On 5 May 2011, a 55-minute test flight was held that included retraction of the landing gear.

On 26 February 2012, a J-20 performed various low-altitude maneuvers. On 10 May 2012, a second prototype underwent high speed taxiing tests, and flight testing that began later that month. On 20 October 2012, photographs of a new prototype emerged, featuring a different radome, which was speculated to house an AESA radar.

On March 2013, images of the side weapon bays appeared, including a missile launch rail.

J-20 “2002” with weapons bay open@sinodefence.files.wordpress.com

Latest pictures of weapons bay


On 16 January 2014, a J-20 prototype was revealed, showing a new intake and stealth coating, as well as redesigned vertical stabilizers, and an Electro-Optical Targeting System. This particular aircraft, numbered ‘2011’, performed its maiden flight on 1 March 2014 and is said to represent the initial pre-serial standard. Overall the year 2014 was quite a successful one and until the end of 2014 three more pre-serial prototypes were flown: number ‘2012’ on 26 July 2014, number ‘2013’ on 29 November 2014 and finally number ‘2015’ on 19 December 2014.

Composite image created with images from Xinhua News Agency, Chinese Internet (cjdby.net).

The third prototype of China’s 5th generation fighter jet made its maiden flight on Mar. 1.

As already explained, Beijing’s radar-evading plane shows several differences from the first (and second) prototype aircraft, a sign China is improving and developing more in the field of low observability applied to fighter jets.

These are, an overall light grey color scheme similar to that of U.S. stealth planes (most probably a radar-absorbing coating); new air intakes; completely redesigned nose section and radome (once again showing resemblance with F-22/F-35); dielectric panels in the front fuselage below the completely redesigned canopy; EOTS (Electro-Optical Targeting System); differently shaped gear bays and slightly different tail fins tips.

Use the top image to check on the one below (click for a higher resolution image) some of the differences between J-20 “2001” (first prototype) and J-20 “2011”. Source @theaviationist.com

On 13 Sep, 2015 a new prototype, marked ‘2016’, begun testing. This prototype has noticeable improvements, such as apparently changed DSI bumps on the intakes, which save weight, complexity and radar signature. The apparent shape change of the 2016’s DSI suggests the possibility of new engines to power the fighter.

Image @airwar.ru“2016”  showing new DSI @china-defense.blogspot.com
Altering the shape of the DSI suggests that this prototype may have more powerful engines than its predecessors, likely to be an advanced 14 ton thrust derivative of the Russian AL-31 or Chinese WS-10 turbofan engines, though, by 2020 the J-20 is planned to use the 18-19 ton WS-15 engine, enabling the jet to super-cruise without using afterburners. The flight booms around the engines have been enlarged, possibly to accommodate rearwards facing radars or electronic jamming equipment. It also has a stealthier bumper.
Image @defenceforumindia.comImage @china-defense.blogspot.com

The fuselage extends almost all the way to the engine’s exhaust nozzles. The trapezoidal booms on sides of the nozzles are also reshaped, possibly to install rearwards facing radar or ECM equipment. Chinese engineers work overtime to optimize the J-20’s performance for its projected 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 rear stealth for the J-20 against enemy radar.

“2015” seen with extended refueling probe @military.cnr.cnSeen here testing is “2015” @i19.servimg.com

In late November, 2015; a brand new J-20 prototype numbered 2017 took to the sky. According to the latest source, the design of J-20 is already mature and will not directly use the 117S engine.

“2011” vs “2017”, the “nose comparison” @china-defense.blogspot.com


In late December, 2015, a brand new J-20 numbered 2101 was spotted. The 2101 was believed to be the low rate initial production (LRIP) version of the aircraft.




Chengdu J-20 prototype

The J-20 has a long and wide fuselage, with the chiseled nose section and a frameless canopy resembling that of the F-22 Raptor. Immediately behind the cockpit are low observable intakes. All-moving canard surfaces with pronounced dihedral are placed behind the intakes, followed by leading edge extensions merging into delta wing with forward-swept trailing edges. The aft section features twin, outward canted all-moving fins, short but deep ventral strakes, and conventional round engine exhausts.

One important design criterion for the J-20 describes high instability. This requires sustained pitch authority at a high angle-of-attack, in which a conventional tail-plane would lose effectiveness due to stalling. On the other hand, a canard can deflect opposite to the angle-of-attack, avoiding stall and thereby maintaining control. Canard is also known to provide good supersonic performance, excellent supersonic and transonic turn performance, and improved short-field landing performance compared to the conventional delta wing design.

“2016” J-20 clearly shows side compartments for WVR missiles @c2.staticflickr.com

Leading edge extensions and body lift are incorporated to enhance performance in a canard layout. This combination is said by the designer to generate 1.2 times the lift of an ordinary canard delta, and 1.8 times more lift than an equivalent sized pure delta configuration. The designer claims such combination allows the use of a smaller wing, reducing supersonic drag without compromising transonic lift-to-drag characteristics that are crucial to the aircraft’s turn performance.

According to the Jamestown Foundation, the J-20 has the potential for development into a high performance stealth aircraft comparable to the F-22 Raptor, with given appropriate engines.


The prototype’s engine is believed to be initially powered by WS-10 and / or the AL-31F engines. China is currently working on an advanced domestic turbofan engine similar in performance to the Pratt & Whitney F119 coded WS-15, but there are also speculations that Saturn AL-31#117S engine may be used for the initial batch of the J-20.

 AL-31 or Saturn 117s engine@leteckemotory.czWS-15 seen here under testImage @redstar.gr

At the 2012 Zhuhai Air Show, Russia approached China in an unsuccessful bid to sell the Su-35, which included the 117S engines. According to the latest news, China and Russia signed a contract for 24 Su-35 in November, 2015. However, Chinese source stated that the design of J-20 is mature and it will not directly use 117S engine.


See details of Su-35: HERE

Russia to supply first four Su-35 fighters to China in 2016: HERE

The production version of the J-20 is believed to be the WS-15, a turbofan engine currently under development. According to Global Security, the engine core, composed of high pressure compressors, the combustion chamber, and high pressure turbines were successfully tested in 2005. An image of the core appeared in the 2006 Zhuhai Air Show.


The aircraft features a glass cockpit, with two main large color liquid crystal displays (LCD) situated side-by-side, three smaller auxiliary displays, and a wide-angle holographic head-up display (HUD).

Spy shot at the cockpit of J-20 @alert5.comClaimed to be J-20 cockpit mockup @asian-defence.net

A PLAAF Tupolev Tu-204 testbed aircraft was seen featuring a J-20 nose cone. It is believed to house the Type 1475 (KLJ-5) active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar with 1856 transmit/receive modules.

Chengdu J-20 © Konstantinos PanitsidisShows position of radar housing @redstar.grTu-204 Tests J-20 Radar – Tu-204 number 769, a Russian origin jetliner belonging to the PLAAF’s flight testing regiment, is now testing a radar for the J-20 fighter, as shown in a television clip.

The China Test Flight Establishment’s (CTFE) Tu-204 has been modified to carry a stealth fighter radome on its nose. Previously, the Russian origin Tu-204 jetliner had been reported to test Chinese air to air refueling technologies. Given the shape and large size of the radome, it is likely that the radar being carried by the Tu-204 is for the J-20 fifth generation fighter. The projected radar for the J-20 is likely the Type 1475 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, which provides improved range, transmission power and frequency compared to 1970s era mechanically scanned radars. The F-22’s AN/APG-77 radar was also tested on a Boeing 757 during its development.

Chinese Fighters’ AESA Radars – Shown here are photos and line drawings of Chinese AESA radars. The top one is for the J-10B fighter and has about 1200 transmit/receiver (T/R) modules, the middle one is for the J-16 strike fighter and has 1760 T/R Modules. The bottom one destined for the J-20 5th generation stealth fighter, and has 1856 T/R modules (generally, the more T/R modules on an AESA radar, the more powerful and flexible it is).

The current J-20 prototypes, numbers 2001, 2002 and 2011, most likely carry AESA radars themselves to test the radar performance and to simulate the characteristics of production J-20s as closely as possible. Even so, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) would want to also test the Type 1475 radar on a jetliner, since the larger aircraft have additional space to provide onsite monitoring and diagnosis by engineers and equipment. Having a dedicated Tu-204 test platform for the J-20’s radar would also allow CTFE to schedule flight tests solely on the needs of evaluating the radar; the test flight schedules of the J-20s would also have to factor in questions about engines, stealth and maneuverability. Source @popsci.com

T/R module count of US AESAs based upon the 2001 Defense Science Board report “Future DoD Airborne High-Frequency Radar Needs/Resources”Image Credit: Air Power Australia, 2008.@img.ifcdn.com

Prototype “2011” featured a revised nose section with elements resembling a IRST/EOTS system, and a metal finish that loosely reminds the radar absorbing Haze Paint first used on F-16s, and reportedly included sensor fusion technology.

A-Star’s EOTS-86 appears to be similar to the Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) that equips the Lockheed Martin F-35. Source: Via Top81 web page @janes.com

The EOTS-89 resembles the Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) of the Lockheed Martin F-35, which combines Forward Looking Infrared and Infrared Search and Track (IRST) capabilities. The similarity includes the use of two tracking mirrors and a flat-facetted optical window, with bottom fuselage placement just aft the radar radome. Such a system was so placed on the large mock-up of the FC-31 seen in November 2014.

A-Star's EORD-31 IRST uses a unique faceted sensor dome. (Via Top81 web page)A-Star’s EORD-31 IRST uses a unique faceted sensor dome. (Via Top81 web page) @janes.com

A-Star’s EORD-31 serves as an IRST, similar to the OLS-27 series used by the Russian Sukhoi Su-27 fighter. However, instead of a spherical dome cover, the EORD-31 is flat and facetted. Chinese press reports claimed the system may be able to detect a Lockheed Martin F-22A at 110 km and a Boeing B-2 at 150 km. Source @janes.com

Chinese company A-Star Science and Technology has developed the EOTS-89 electro-optical targeting system and EORD-31 IRST for the J-20 and potentially other PLAAF fighters to detect and intercept stealth aircraft.


The main weapon bay is capable of housing both short and long-range air-to-air missiles (AAM) (PL-9, PL-12C/D & PL-21).

The PL-9 was introduced during the 1990s, and is a separate evolution of the PL-5 series, with capabilities similar to the AIM-9L/M (image © 2009, Zhenguan Studio). @ausairpower.netPL-10  (K/AKK-10?) is the new generation IIR-guided missile in the same class of AIM-9X, ASRAAM, A-Darter, AAM-5 and IRIS-T. It features an IIR seeker (containing a 128×128 focal plane array?) and TVC, plus a 90° off-boresight angle and 50g max load. When coupled with HMD worn by the pilot, the missile possesses an excellent IRCCM capability against modern fighter aircraft maneuvering at high-gs. It also has a “lock-after-launch” capability, which could extend its range to BVR. Similar to AAM-5 and IRIS-T, the latest design (circa 2013) features 4 enlarged tail stabilizing fins plus 4 narrow stabilizing strips attached to the mid-section of the missile body, which help maintain missile’s maneuverability at the terminal stage after the solid motor stops working. PL-10 has a length of 3m, weight 89kg and range >20km. @chinese-military-aviation.blogspot.comA PL-12 active radar homing AAM was being fired from a PLAN J-10A fighter. PL-12 (K/AKK-12?) was under development at LETRI/607 Institute since early 90s. The missile was expected to be in the same class as AIM-120A/B and its active seeker may have evolved from the earlier AMR-1 design (R-129? based on Russian 9B-1348 seeker & datalink for R-77). Its tailfins appear to have fin tips as well as the leading edges of the fin root cropped. These specially designed tailfins are believed to possess lower drag for greater speed and higher torque for better maneuverability. Two datalink antennas can be seen next to the nozzle for mid-course correction. Several dielectric strips are seen along the middle warhead section which house the radio proximity fuse. @chinese-military-aviation.blogspot.com
Long-range active radar homing AAM PL-21

A new long-range active radar homing AAM has been under development which appears similar to British Meteor. It features an active radar seeker and an integrated ramjet/solid rocket motor with a single or twin belly air inlets. PL-21 also features 4 small stabilizing fins behind the active radar seeker, a characteristics of Russian R-27/AA-10. Two-way datalink antennas may be installed in the tail section for mid-course correction. The effective range of PL-21 is expected to be >120km. Source @chinese-military-aviation.blogspot.com

Two smaller lateral weapon bays behind the air inlets are intended for short-range AAMs (PL-9). These bays allow closure of the bay doors prior to firing the missile, thus enhancing stealth.

1_jpgf4b38d8b-92bd-4956-bbf3-eaa10eca236bOriginalTwo smaller lateral weapon bays behind the air inlets are intended for short-range AAMs (PL-9) depicted above 3D model


Analysts noted that J-20’s nose and canopy use similar stealth shaping design as the F-22, yielding similar signature performance in a mature design at the front, while the aircraft’s side and axi-symmetric engine nozzles may expose the aircraft to radar. One prototype has been powered by WS-10G engines equipped with a different jagged-edge nozzles and tiles for greater stealth.

Nutg494Example exhaust nozzle

Others have raised doubts about the use of canards on a low-observable design, stating that canards would guarantee radar detection and a compromise of stealth.

However, canards and low-observability are not mutually exclusive designs. Northrop Grumman’s proposal for the U.S Navy’s Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) incorporated canards on a stealthy airframe. Lockheed Martin employed canards on a stealth airframe for the Joint Advanced Strike Technology (JAST) program during early development before dropping them due to complications with aircraft carrier recovery. McDonnell Douglas and NASA’s X-36 featured canards and was considered to be extremely stealthy. Radar cross-section can be further reduced by controlling canard deflection through flight control software, as is done on the Eurofighter.

Comparison to the Mig-1.44 @4.bp.blogspot.com

Some have claimed it as a reworked Mig-1.44 : @snafu

The diverterless supersonic inlet (DSI) enables an aircraft to reach Mach 2.0 with a simpler intake than traditionally required, and improves stealth performance by eliminating radar reflections between the diverter and the aircraft’s skin. Analysts have noted that the J-20 DSI reduces the need for application of radar absorbent materials. Additionally, the “bump” surface reduces the engine’s exposure to radar, significantly reducing a strong source of radar reflection.


Strategic implications


Robert Gates downplayed the significance of the aircraft by questioning how stealthy the J-20 may be, but stated the J-20 would “put some of our capabilities at risk, and we have to pay attention to them, we have to respond appropriately with our own programs.” The U.S. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper testified that the United States knew about the program for a long time and that the test flight was not a surprise.

Loren B. Thompson felt that J-20’s combination of forward stealth and long range puts America’s surface assets at risk, and that a long-range maritime strike capability may cause the United States more concern than a short range air-superiority fighter like the F-22. In its 2011 Annual Report to Congress, the Pentagon described the J-20 as “a platform capable of long range, penetrating strikes into complex air defense environments.” A 2012 report by the U.S.‐China Economic and Security Review Commission suggests that the United States may have underestimated the speed of development of the J-20 and several other Chinese military development projects.

Observers are not able to reach a consensus on J-20’s primary role. Based on initial photographs with focus on the aircraft’s size, early speculations referred to as the J-20 as a F-111 equivalent with little to no air-to-air ability. Others saw the J-20 as a potential air superiority fighter once appropriate engines become available. More recent speculations refer to the J-20 as an air-to-air fighter with an emphasis on forward stealth, high-speed aerodynamics, range, and adequate agility. The J-20 could threaten vulnerable tankers and ISR/C2 platforms, depriving Washington of radar coverage and strike range.

Luneburg lens radar reflector

ctmwtxavyaaaorjAnother one by eaglephoto,note the luneburg lens radar reflector on the belly – Image @dafeng caof-22_luneberg_500-375Example pic of luneburg lens radar reflector

The Luneberg reflector gives an homogeneous response inside a wide angle. It is an ideal passive responder, perfect for highlighting, and eventually monitoring the radar target to which it is attached, with a high level of security.
The Luneberg lens is the most efficient passive radar reflector available.
The Luneberg reflector requires no power supply nor maintenance.

Source @radar-reflector.com

Cyber security

In April 2009, a Wall Street Journal report indicated that, according to the Pentagon, information from the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II had been compromised by unknown attackers that appeared to originate from China. There is some speculation that the compromise of the F-35 program may have helped in the development of the J-20.


Data from Aviation Week & Space Technology

General characteristics

  • Crew: one (pilot)
  • Length: 20 m (66.8 ft)
  • Wingspan: 13 m (44.2 ft)
  • Height: 4.45 m (14 ft 7 in)
  • Wing area: 78 m2 (840 sq ft)
  • Empty weight: 19,391 kg (42,750 lb)
  • Gross weight: 32,092 kg (70,750 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 36,288 kg (80,001 lb) upper estimate
  • Fuel capacity: 11,340 kg (25,000 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × WS-10G (prototype), AL-31F (prototype) or Xian WS-15 (production) afterburning turbofans, 76.18 kN (17,125 lbf) thrust each dry, 122.3 or 179.9 kN (27,500 or 40,450 lbf) with afterburner
  • Wing loading: 410 kg/m2 (84 lb/sq ft)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.94 (prototype with interim engines)


  • PL-10 SRAAM (see above)
  • PL-12 Medium Range AAM (see above)
Image @globalsecurity.org

J-20 production makes maiden flight

Successful landing of the maiden flight of the first series-produced J-20 stealth fighter jet “2101” @tiananmenstremendousachievements.wordpress.com

In its report yesterday on the series production of China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet, mil.huanqiu.com says that according to experts, it takes less than five years for China from the maiden flight of the first experimental prototype to series production, the shortest ever in the world. That is indeed impressive, but there have not been enough test flights. They believe there will be more test flights of even the existing prototypes.

This blogger said in his previous posts that China began the series production of J-20 due to its urgent need for air supremacy in case of a military conflict with the US.

This is also proved by its import of Russian S-400 air defense system and Su-35 fighter jets, especially the high price of US$1.5 billion it pays for 24 Su-35s. In fact, its improved version of J-11, the J-11C, comes near to Su-35 in functions. Why is China willing to pay such a high price? Because, it can learn some technology it urgently needs from Su-35 especially its engine.

Global Times quotes an anonymous Chinese military expert as saying that like F-35, there is a large software in J-20 that needs much test; therefore, there must be further improvement during the trial use when the series-produced J-20s have been put into trial service in Chinese air force.

The expert believes that there is still a long way to go for China’s J-20 as the engines it uses cannot meet its designed standards. Only when a J-20 is installed with engines with a thrust-weight ratio of 10 can J-20 be regarded as a perfect fourth-generation fighter jet.

Source: mil.huanqiu.com “Has trial series production of J-20 begun?: Perhaps like F-35, it will be improved while being used” (summary and comments by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese) Source @tiananmenstremendousachievements.wordpress.com Posted 

117S engine waits at Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Association (KnAAPO) plant for a Su35

Russian media reported that both China and Russia are interested in subsequent cooperation on fighter engine field. During his visit in Russia, Xu Qiliang visited Russia’s largest engine manufacturer and watched production of AL-31 engine, the factory’s leader said they will implement the agreement on exporting 117S engines for Su-35 to China.

Chinese military analysts think China may import technology of TVC engine AL-41F1S (117S), and may also buy this engine for J-20 stealth fighter.

Analysts said China still cannot produce TVC engine (thrust vectoring control engine) for J-20 fighter, but might had been started related R&D. And 117S engine may promote such research work. Source @china-arms.com Posted  November 23, 2015

size comparison the J-20 is as big as an Su-27 @img.gawkerassets.comJ-20 for aircraft carrier rendered @snafu-solomon.blogspot.com

Main material source: wikimedia.org

Updated Oct 19, 2016

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