Third Prototype of China’s Stealth Jet Makes Maiden Flight and Shows Improvements

Mar 02 2014 - 32 Comments

Chengdu J-20 Stealth Fighter Jet “2011” has eventually made its maiden flight. A composite image shows how different third prototype is from the the first one.

The third prototype of China’s 5th generation fighter jet made its maiden flight on Mar. 1.

As already explained, Beijing’s radar-evading plane shows several differences from the first (and second) prototype aircraft, a sign China is improving and developing more in the field of low observability applied to fighter jets.

These are, an overall light grey color scheme similar to that of U.S. stealth planes (most probably a radar-absorbing coating); new air intakes; completely redesigned nose section and radome (once again showing resemblance with F-22/F-35); dielectric panels in the front fuselage below the completely redesigned canopy; EOTS (Electro-Optical Targeting System); differently shaped gear bays and slightly different tail fins tips.

Use the top image to check on the one below (click for a higher resolution image) some of the differences between J-20 “2001” (first prototype) and J-20 “2011”.

J-20 2001-11 composite

Composite image created with images from Xinhua News Agency, Chinese Internet (

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  • Robert

    the paint job is impressive

  • Jerome

    Truth be told, the second image looks suspiciously photoshopped, the outline is too crisp, the shadows don’t match the lights direction (the top seems to be facing the sun, yet the wheels are perfectly clear for example) and the perspective is way too similar to the original photo. I wouldn’t trust this image much, but I wouldn’t discard the hypothesis China is indeed evolving the J20 either.

    • cencio4

      There are plenty of images available of the aircraft, taken in the last weeks. The same details can be found in all of them.

  • BF109

    chinese MiG 141

    • There is no MiG 141, unless you are referring to the MiG 1.44, in which your argument is moot considering the different roles and capabilities the planes possess.

  • Mike H

    Am I the only person that thinks the landing gear is very ‘spindly’?? Does not seem very robust

    • Navi

      There are videos on the Internet showing a J20 landing on one main wheel (the aircraft was tilted to starboard while momentarily touching the runway) but as far as I am aware no such videos exist of F-22s or F35s actually doing the same stunt.

  • Andreas Rupprecht

    Yes, the aircraft itself is surely heavily modified or IMO better to say refined. Overall here are the changes spotted so far

    – a Raptor-style light-grey colour scheme,

    – the engines’ diverterless supersonic intakes appear to have been
    re-designed, perhaps to improve the radar cross section characteristics.

    – an additional inner canopy frame similar to the F-35

    – clipped tails and canards (which now seem to be integrated much better with the forward fuselage)

    – re-designed wheel bay doors

    – a reduction in the size of the wing actuators

    – a new frameless wide-angle holographic head-up display

    – an electro optical targeting system protruding under the front fuselage

    – several new dielectric panels around the front fuselage

    – wider and longer sponsoons/tail stings (where the tails are mounted)

    – redesigned LERX with no longer an arc but straight leading edge

    – probably a redesigned rear fuselage featuring a wider and deeper “ditch” between both engines.

    – tire fairings for the main landing gear are larger (but it may just be
    that the re-designed LERX which intersects it is less voluminous than
    it used to be)

    – a small ventral bump of unknown function has moved from the port side of the rear fuselage to starboard.

    – squared rather than round nose landing gear lights

    + following the latest images available, it seems as if the flaps on the
    trailling edge are different too and maybe the weapons bay is longer.

    I hope I did not miss anything ?!

    • cencio4

      Hi Andreas,

      thank you for your comment which adds a lot of interesting details to the post. You are one of the better informed and more competent analysts of Chinese Military aviation topics.
      Thanks for the contribution.

      • Ed

        FWIF, his post is identical to one on earlier today. ;) Could be the same author though, I suppose…

        • Andreas Rupprecht

          Yes I am the same ! ;-)

  • R.Lopaka

    Libs…Cut the US military!!! We don’t need no stinking new fangled super expensive stealth fighters!! We have 42 year old F-15s!! We can use the $$$$ to build nation wide (all “57” Obama states) 20th century “high” speed rail!!! Maybe even build it to Asia & Europe! Or put even more folks on food stamps!!!

    • Aron

      Take your politics elsewhere, please. Totally unnecessary.

      • R.Lopaka

        What part isn’t TRUE plz?

        • Aron

          Every single point, save for the age of the fighters. Take your rage back to WND. We don’t need it here.

          • R.Lopaka

            So the libs aren’t cutting US Mil? Libs don’t want to cancel the F-35? Libs don’t want to depend on the aged F-15/16 putting our US pilots lives at risk? And libs don’t want to build 20th century so called “high” speed rail? I’m sure you, Putin, Xi Jinping & dear little new leader are very happy. The truth shall set you free….Or the USA.

    • Aron

      Let’s keep the foolish political invective out if this, shall we? Completely and totally unnecessary.

  • Mike Brewer

    Hows the powerplant though?

  • Sir Arthur Dayne

    Judging by its size that thing is going to have the T/W ratio of a jumbo jet

    • Andreas Rupprecht

      Surely not ! ;-)
      To admit I don’t understand why that fighter is still seen as sooo large and therefore heavy and even more as useless as a fighter. We have several images showing it side by side – esp. the quite will known images from GE – to a J-11 and J-15 and the J-20 is considerably shorter. It is – to admit – surely underpowered with its current interim engines.

    • jett

      Depends on the engine

  • Kocsis János

    The tip of the fin shows possibility of intent to operate in naval environment too. The Canopy frame is not helping stealth at all. The MLG (main landing gears) look like MiG-23 fathered design. Many essential details are not visible (i.e.: materials, antennae, sensor groups, etc.)
    The shear size suggests long range (likely naval) role too. Overall rating: mixed kid with many daddies…

    • Korba

      Any sense of how it would stack up against our planes?

  • R.Lopaka

    photo shopped…Agreed. It’s a FAKE!! You can even see the sticks holding up the little model in the top pix!! LOL!

  • feltonwispers

    another piece of chinese junk that is nothing more than a poor copy of american tech.

    • Vietnam

      If they copy, then why do they need to re-develop for 10 yrs??

    • Santi Diaz

      This “piece of chinese junk” will kick USA out of Pacific in 5 years…

      • Edohiguma

        Only if the rest of the Pacific allows it. Hint: China’s not very popular there. So the other countries will say “Nope!”

  • Callsign Vega

    lol I think the Chinese just look at characteristics and features of US planes and go… how can we duplicate this? They don’t actually make anything from scratch.

  • Korba

    I’ve heard conflicting concerns about Chinese tech. Are their designs purely due to theft from US defense companies or does all stealth tech lead to the same designs? Also heard that while they may have stolen plans that they still can’t compete in certain crucial areas, like best practices, maybe materials design, etc.