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

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

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

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. 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.

    • 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.

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

    • 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.

  3. 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 ?!

    • 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.

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