Four in a Row: China’s Stealth Fighter Fleet Grows Again


LRIP Continued The two most recent production J-20 fighters, probably numbered "2103" and "2104", are fresh out of the Chengdu factory. Notice the PLAAF insignia stenciled on the lower fuselage and underside of the wings. Photo: Adam T. at cjdby.net

LRIP Continued
The two most recent production J-20 fighters, probably numbered “2103” and “2104”, are fresh out of the Chengdu factory. Notice the PLAAF insignia stenciled on the lower fuselage and underside of the wings. Photo: Adam T. at cjdby.net

In July 2016, the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation rolled out two more low rate initial production (LRIP) J-20 stealth fighters. This brings to a total of four J-20 fighters built for service into the Chinese air force, as opposed to the original eight J-20 prototypes, which are still undergoing a rigorous flight testing regimen. At this rate of production, China may have 12 production J-20 ready to hand off to a PLAAF squadron for operational and flight familiarization, with an initial operating capability (IOC — meaning those fighters can conduct combat operations) in 2017-2018.

The J-20 will be stealthy, fast, heavily armed with long range air to air missiles, and state of the art radar and infrared sensors. Perhaps more than any other weapon, the J-20 represents China's military modernization. Photo: www.fyjs.cn, via Andreas Rupprecht at China Defense Forum

The J-20 will be stealthy, fast, heavily armed with long range air to air missiles, and state of the art radar and infrared sensors. Perhaps more than any other weapon, the J-20 represents China’s military modernization. Photo: http://www.fyjs.cn, via Andreas Rupprecht at China Defense Forum

The two newest J-20 fighters are painted with a very dark grey paint job, along with new low visibility PLAAF insignias on the lower fuselage, beneath the wings. If the J-20 meets its 2017-2018 IOC target date, it will give China a technological edge in air to air combat over all its Asian neighbors, who do not yet have 5th generation planes. As a heavyweight stealth fighter, it is armed with long range missiles, electronic warfare, advanced radar and passive sensors, making it a respectable competitor to even the new US F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters. CAC is already planning a series of future updates to keep the J-20 state of art; domestic WS-15 engines are just one of them.

Wrapped in a tarp, the second J-31 prototype leaves Shenyang, on an escorted convoy for specialized testing (since the wings are completely integrated into the fuselage, it's too wide to be shipped by train or air). Photo: =GT at China Defense Forum

Wrapped in a tarp, the second J-31 prototype leaves Shenyang, on an escorted convoy for specialized testing (since the wings are completely integrated into the fuselage, it’s too wide to be shipped by train or air). Photo: =GT at China Defense Forum

Images have also shown that the second J-31/FC-31 prototype is being transported on Chinese highways, similar to the transportation of the first J-31 prototype in the summer of 2012. The fighter was moved from the Shenyang factory to a testing range in another part of China. China’s second fifth generation fighter, the J-31 is a twin engine, medium weight stealth fighter built by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation. It is undergoing testing, while waiting for firm domestic and export orders. A display floor model of an improved J-31, with a larger fuselage, improved indigenous engines, stealthier features and improved sensors, was prominently displayed at the Zhuhai 2014 Airshow. The second J-31 prototype, incorporating those improvements, is expected to make its first flight soon, if it already hasn’t done so. A first flight of the improved J-31, just in time for the 2016 Zhuhair Airshow, would greatly improve its sales prospects at home and aboard.

A New Bird The new J-31 prototype (the one in lighter gray paint) is expected to be larger, have a nose mounted infrared search and tracking sensor, and stealthy features (such as clipped horizontal and vertical stabilizers). Photo: Lovely Swift at mil.qq.com

A New Bird
The new J-31 prototype (the one in lighter gray paint) is expected to be larger, have a nose mounted infrared search and tracking sensor, and stealthy features (such as clipped horizontal and vertical stabilizers). Photo: Lovely Swift at mil.qq.com

With two stealth fighters soon to enter service, China is making another critical step in becoming a 21st century air superpower. And as Chinese defense exports grow, the J-20 and J-31 could start making the rounds at foreign airshows, and possibly even in foreign air forces.

Source: Popular Science “Four in a Row: China’s Stealth Fighter Fleet Grows Again”

Note: This is Popular Science’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.

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