Nearly a year after the Sukhoi T-50 made its first flight, another fifth-generation fighter program made its debut, in the form of Chengdu’s J-20. The aircraft was revealed in late December 2010, before making a first flight on January 11 this year.
While seemingly happy to allow the J-20 prototype to be photographed, Chinese authorities have been tight-lipped about the program, and there is little in the way of concrete information. It appears that the aircraft is powered by the indigenously developed WS-10G engine, and it exhibits numerous stealthy features, including long weapon bays.
Whether the January flight was indeed the first flight, or what the exact purpose of the J-20 is, remains unconfirmed. It has been speculated that the aircraft is little more than a technology demonstrator for a subsequent design, and that it may be tailored more for strike and anti-ship operations than air-to-air.
Following its one-off flight in front of high-ranking officials from Beijing in January, the J-20 prototype was not seen for some time. It resurfaced in April and had undertaken 14 further flights by last weekend.