China unveils two-seater design for stealth plane based on J-20 fighter

  • Breakthrough variant intended as early-warning aircraft and command centre for jets and rocket launchers

  • Seating design similar to Russian Su-34 would be a world first among single-seater stealth warplanes

Minnie Chan

China’s advanced J-20 jet fighter is the template for a two-seater stealth aircraft in development. Photo: Xinhua

China is developing a new generation two-seater stealth warplane, based on its most advanced fighter the J-20, intended as an early-warning aircraft that will serve as a command centre for other weapons such as fighter jets and rocket launchers.

Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute (CADI), developer of the J-20, is working on the breakthrough variant which will be the first stealth fighter in the world to accommodate two pilots. It will also be more innovative, according to an online report published earlier this week.

The report, which appeared on War Industry Black Technology, a social media platform run by Shenzhen-based Quantum Defence Cloud Technology, included a design sketch of the twin-seater variant and said it would serve as a small, early-warning warplane.

The design sketch for the twin-seater J-20 variant, with a similar cockpit configuration to the Russian Su-34. Photo: Handout

The design is similar to the Russian Su-34 twin-seater supersonic medium-range fighter bomber, with a side-by-side seating arrangement in the cockpit which the report said would help the two pilots better communicate and share information effectively.

As the new generation aircraft with capabilities of stealth and supersonic cruise, the new platform also needs to command drones, other fighter jets, and even ground-based rocket launchers, as well as surface warships and submarines, making it a small early-warning aircraft,” it said.

A military insider said the new plane would be equipped with defensive air-to-air weapons, but would not be used as a bomber, contrary to mainland media reports.

It is not a real bomber. To maintain stealth and agility, all missiles should be put inside the bays, that means only light air-to-air bombs are allowed,” said the insider, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

The heavy explosives required for air-to-ground and air-to-sea missiles could only be accommodated under the craft’s wings, drastically reducing its stealth capabilities.

A Sukhoi Su-34 cockpit simulator. Photo: Handout

All bombers carrying heavy bombs would be easily detected by the integrated air defence system (IADS),” the insider said. “That means two-seater stealth fighters could not cause any threat to American military bases or even aircraft carrier strike groups.”

Most training planes and bombers feature tandem seating, with the front seat pilot taking care of the flight while the co-pilot focuses from the back seat on the weaponry, so the design of the new variant is noteworthy.

Hong Kong-based military commentator Song Zhongping said the J-20 could be upgraded and modified to different variants because of its strong detection capability and capacity to connect multichannel intelligence and electronic warfare information.

But it may take longer [to develop] if the new aircraft uses the double-seat design. The aerodynamic shape of the aircraft should make major changes,” Song said. “Then it would no longer be the original J-20 model, but another new type.”

The two-seater stealth fighter is just one of the variants developed by CADI based on the J-20 platform. According to the military insider, the institute’s top priority is to develop a carrier-based stealth fighter jet for China’s next generation aircraft carrier, the Type 002, currently in final assembly and featuring electromagnetic catapult launching systems.

CADI and its sister company, Shenyang Aircraft Design Institute – which developed the J-15, China’s only active carrier-based fighter jet – are racing to develop a next-generation fighter capable of competing with the American F35 ship-borne fighter.

Variants of the J-20 were flagged by its chief designer Yang Wei at the 2018 China Airshow in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, when he told a press conference that more variants of the J-20 would be developed to meet the new requirements of future warfare.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Two-seater stealth fighter jet hailedas breakthrough

Source: SCMP “China unveils two-seater design for stealth plane based on J-20 fighter”

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

6 Comments on “China unveils two-seater design for stealth plane based on J-20 fighter”

  1. Steve says:

    China will have the J-20B single seater, carrier based stealth fighter and next a twin seater stealth, unlike the desperate US upgrading the f15 to f15ex to pair f35 as Mr. Spotter n Mrs. Sniper. With China’s EMALs, no need for a compromised J-20 VTOL. The US n Japs are desperate and converted a f35B series VTOL with compromised reduction in weapons bay n increase in thrust. Their substandard EMALs don’t work.


  2. Poor China says:

    A two seater J-20? That version would be even weaker than the one place J-20. China needs to perfect its engines first


    • Steve says:

      Sounds like India has replaced Tik Tok with your Talk Cock mouthApps.


    • kommonsense says:

      AS if u would know better than the engineers???
      U should perfect your thinking fist


    • johnleecan says:

      I agree with you that China’s J-20 two seater version is weaker than the single seater J-20 simply because it hasn’t been manufactured yet. But your house might be used as a target practice when it comes online so say your prayers everyday. Good luck!


    • Kwai Laan says:

      According to the article ” Then it would no longer be the original J-20 model, but another new type.” “. So this is a different aircraft and it is still on the drawing board.
      It’s too early to say it would be weaker than J-20 when there is much innovation and technological development in jet engines in China. There is no denying the WS-10 engine and variants are working fine. This includes thrust vectoring which was demonstrated last year.
      Since military matters are top secrets, reports on development of jet engines in China, whether it is facing difficulty or progressing in leaps, are speculative. For China bashers they would crow that China faces technological difficulties to soothe their egos.
      Please read this article about sub – munition dispenser missiles that will likely render all the F-22 and F-35 aircrafts unusable:

      Rafales, F-16s In Danger As China Develops New Munitions That Can ‘Paralyze’ Enemy Airfields