China’s new fifth-generation stealth jet is believed to be drawing closer to completion after a supposed Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) test plane was spotted last week.
According to Sputnik, video footage from Chinese websites emerged showing the suspected J-20 unit in action.
This would be the second J-20 caught by onlookers after the first one was spotted in December 2015. Unlike that unit, however, the most recent J-20 was painted in grey and marked with no identifiable serial numbers — it was reported that one of the few noticeable markings on the fighter was a toned down version of the national insignia.
Several sources suggest that this would be the fourth LRIP developed by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. However, despite the evidence, such as satellite imagery of J-20s from China’s Flight Test Establishment base, government-owned news outlets have not confirmed the existence of the jet.
Even a quick look at Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group’s lineup of military aircraft shows no trace of the development of the J-20.
Although the development of the J-20 may be well on its way to supplement China’s squadrons, aviation experts have asserted that China has gone through dubious means in order to get their program up-to-date.
Aviation expert Carlo Kopp of the think-tank Air Power Australia writes, “By cleverly exploiting contemporary United States-developed stealth fighter shaping design rules, Chengdu engineers were able to rapidly get an excellent basic shaping design with a minimum of risk and cost, and significant long-term stealth performance growth potential.”
Powered by twin Russian Saturn AL-31 engines, the J-20 is estimated to fly with speeds as high as 1,305 mph, and holds a central bay of four beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles (BVRAAMs) and two short-range air-to-air missiles (AAMs).
As of 2011, analysts have also estimated the cost of each J-20 unit to be around $110 million.
Here’s some footage of the pre-production variant of the J-20:
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