Chinese Combat Aircraft Mock Ups Appear At Marine Corps Auxiliary Airfield in North Carolina

JJ-7 J-20
A screenshot from a video by Cpl. Nicholas Cox with the Marine Corps Combat Service Support Schools shows what seems to be a PLAAF JJ-7 (J-7 trainer variant) next to J-20 mock up at MCOLF Atlantic. In the box, Google Earth image of MCOLF Atlantic.

We already knew a J-20 mock up was at Bogue Field, North Carolina, since 2019. A new video shows that the full scale replica was (most probably) moved to MCOLF Atlantic where at least one (possibly two) Fishbed-derivative trainer mock up is based.

As some of our readers may remember, in December 2018, we discovered that a Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon mock up was parked in front of the USAF Air Dominance Center at the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport, Georgia.

A few days later, we also got the confirmation from the Col. Emmanuel Haldopoulos, Commander of the Savannah Air Dominance Center, that the aircraft, was “a full scale replica and remained at the Air Dominance Center for a short period during the week of 4-6 Dec [2018]. The USMC is funding and directing the training objectives of this device […] .

The specific role of the realistic, full scale mock-up was not completely clarified by official U. S. Marine Corps sources. A statement to Marine Corps Times from Marine Corps Training and Education Command, or TECOM, said the mock-up Chinese aircraft we had spotted was used for visual and sensor training.

The photo of the J-20 mock up in front of the Air Dominance Center we were sent by a reader who wished to remain anonymous in 2018.

As this author explained in a detailed report that you can find here:

It’s pretty common for both the U.S. Marine Corps and the USAF and USN to use realistic peer rival aircraft for training purposes or even for realistic aggressive opposing forces training. For instance, in 2018, the U.S. Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force Training Command filed a solicitation for contractors to provide Russian-built Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter, equipped with electronic tracking pods for integration into simulated combat exercises at the MCAS Yuma Range and Training Area (RTA) to serve as accurate opposing forces threat simulation aircraft. The same is done by the other U.S. services, including the U.S. Air Force, that operates two Mi-24s at Davis-Monthan AFB for dissimilar aerial training with HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters (and also trains with some secretive Su-27 inside Area 51, as we reported in details back in 2017).

We heard nothing about the J-20 replica until 2020, when one of our readers sent us an email suggesting to have a look at the satellite imagery of Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue, or “Bogue Field”.

Indeed, a J-20 replica could be clearly seen on the left border of the northern apron of Bogue Field. While we didn’t know what kind of visual or sensor training the Chinese model was supposed to support at least we had discovered that, from Georgia, it had been moved to North Carolina, at an airfield that serves as a Marine Corps’ East Coast site for Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP) and carrier qualification. The airfield is periodically visited by MCAS Cherry Point’s AV-8B+ Harrier jump jets as well as teams of the F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force teams conducting tests with the F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II stealth jet that can carry out vertical landing maneuvers in simulated expeditionary conditions on the airfield.

The J-20 mock up has remained until (at least) 2021. The most recent satellite image available on Google Earth, dated May 2023, shows the aircraft partly disassembled there. The replica was probably been prepared to be moved to another auxiliary airfield: Marine Corps Outlying Field (MCOLF) Atlantic, North Carolina.

In fact, the aircraft clearly appears to have been reassembled in a video shot during U.S. Marines Small Unmanned Aircraft System School’s activities with R80D SkyRaider Unmanned Aerial System at MCOLF Atlantic, dated July 13, 2023 (first spotted by @lfx160219 on X).

JJ-7 J-20
A PLAAF JJ-7 (J-7 trainer variant) and J-20 mock ups at MCOLF Atlantic, North Carolina (Image: screenshot from USMC video)

Interestingly, the footage released by the U.S. DoD through the DVIDS network to show the operations carried out by the SUASS with 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion (LAAD), Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 167 and Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 223 to test the effectiveness and practical application of unmanned aerial systems equipped with a Silvus Technologies transmission system, briefly shows the J-20 parked next to what seems to be a Chinese JJ-7 trainer replica.

However, the might be another PLAAF J-7 variant on the same airfield: Google Earth imagery dated January 2023 show two Fishbed-derivative mock-ups on the apron.

Two J-7 appear to be parked on the apron at MCOLF Atlantic in Google Earth imagery dated January 2023 (Image credit: Google Earth)

According to the U.S. Marine Corps website, current operations at the facility include rotary-wing operations in support of nearby target ranges and training activities (including tactical, air-to-ground, electronic warfare and low altitude exercises). The facility is also used for Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) training by MCAS Cherry Point, the Navy, and other agencies. More or less, the same kind of activities carried out at Bogue Field.

We closed our article about the J-20 in Bogue Field in 2020 with the following comment:

Let’s see if any other Chinese replica is introduced as part of the US forces realistic adversary training in the near future.

In the end, at least two J-7s have emerged at MCOLF Atlantic, where U.S. Marine Corps regularly train. Again, the role of the mock ups is not clear, although it seems quite likely that they are used for visual or sensor training during simulated Indo-Pacific theatre operations.

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.