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Hot from the fence-line is what looks like the best image yet of China's Chengdu stealth fighter, identified so far as J-20. Remarkable indeed - and at the rate we're going there will be a three-dimensional animated cutaway of this beast by 2.30 Tuesday afternoon, so we can safely stick to what we can see here without having to speculate too far. (Note: this photo appeared on the China Defense Forum. All I've done to it is rotate it and adjust contrast and brightness.)The impression here is of a big, long aircraft, 70+ feet from nose to tail, which would make sense for a number of reasons. Rob Hewson at Jane's has reported that Russia has supplied 32,000-pound thrust 117S engines for the J-20, which would be adequate for an aircraft in the 80,000 pound class - with perhaps lower supercruise performance and agility than an F-22, but with larger weapon bays and more fuel.But ask yourself: why would China need or want a short-range stealth aircraft? Any targets with defenses that call for that capability are a long way from the mainland. Also, the bigger that the aircraft is, the more likely it is that it is a bomber as much as, if not more than, a fighter. The canard is clearly visible and at this point I'm seeing a "lambda" wing planform, seen on some earlier artist's concept out of China, with a single straight leading edge and a kinked trailing edge. It first appeared on McDonnell Douglas JAST studies in the early 1990s:The wing shape was also flight tested on the X-36 unmanned demonstrator - and the overall "sit" of the Chinese aircraft makes an interesting comparison to this shot:So much for this morning - but as the "what" starts to take shape, it gives us context to start thinking about "when" and "why". Update: The 117S comes with 3D vectoring and the engines appear widely enough spaced for that to work. This might mean that the V-tails could be locked out in normal cruising flight. Also, a couple more photos:
ar99, tacair, chengdu J-20
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