Third Chengdu J-20 prototype flies

The third prototype of the Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter made its maiden flight successfully on Saturday 1st March. According to the witness report on Chinese social media, the J-20 prototype “2011” took the sky at about 12:00 local time, escorted by a Chengdu J-10S two-seater fighter. The entire flight lasted about 30 minutes before the aircraft landed safely.

The “2011” prototype was first spotted at the test airfield of the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAIC) preparing for its maiden flight in early 2014. A low-speed taxi test took place on 16 January, followed by a high-speed taxi test on 18 January.

The maiden flight of the first J-20 prototype “2001” in January 2011 took the Western intelligence completely by surprise. A second prototype “2002” then made its maiden flight in May 2012.

Compared with its two predecessors, the “2011” prototype features a number of modifications in its aerodynamic design and systems, with the most notable being a chin-mounted electro-optical targeting system (EOTS). Other modifications include new air intakes, redesigned nose section, differently shaped leading-edge extension, redesigned frame-strengthened canopy, different gear bays, and slightly different forward canard and tail fin tips. In addition, the aircraft also wears a new light-grey colour radar-absorbing coating.

(Top) J-20 prototype
(Top) J-20 prototype “2001” that first flew in January 2011; (Bottom) The new J-20 prototype “2011”

The latest flight test suggests that rather than serving as a technology demonstrator, the J-20 may be on its way to become the world’s third operational 5th-generation fighter, after the Boeing F-22A Raptor and the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II. However, before this can happen Chengdu engineers will need to overcome a number of technical obstacles, such as the lack of indigenous turbofan jet engine and credible avionics.

9 thoughts on “Third Chengdu J-20 prototype flies

  1. Westerners, especially Americans, don’t believe anyone can build anything better than them. They used to say same thing about those ‘copycat’ Japanese cars- until they blew their sales out of the water and almost destroyed the Big 3 and some Euro car companies!

    1. Denial of the reality the Chinese can do anything they are determined to do is a symptom of underlying fear. Of course China is capable. Watch out, though. Fear can become paranoia. The USA has all the familiar human frailties and is dangerous when threatened, as well as ruthless when attacked.

      Re: “redesigned frame-strengthened canopy”. One picture has a forward bow frame in the canopy, and the other does not. Does this indicate there may be mission specific variants of the J-20 that give up frontal sector radar signature for weight saving or better bird prooing?

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