Chengdu J-20

10th January 2022

Chengdu J-20 user+1@localho Mon, 01/10/2022 - 21:17

The J-20 is a fifth-generation, twin-engine fighter designed by Chengdu. Early production aircraft are powered by Russian supplied AL-31FN Series 3 engines. Subsequent production configuration J-20As are powered by the AL-31 or derivatives of the WS-10 depending upon the production batch. Future aircraft may be powered by the WS-15. Much of the existing Western literature describes the aircraft as a low observable (LO) interceptor, but domestic sources universally describe the aircraft as China s premier air superiority fighter. As of early 2022, approximately 60-70 J-20s are likely in operation with the PLAAF or are undergoing testing with Chengdu.

Program Development History

The J-20 s development history spans more than three decades. The People s Republic of China (PRC) is believed to have developed an interest in low observables in the 1980s. In 1992, Yu-Ping Liu Chief Scientist at Northrop Grumman and co-holder of the YF-23 patent, stated China lacked LO engineers working in system design and system integration. Furthermore, much of the domestic literature drew upon Western efforts and produced few innovations. At that time, the PRC lacked basic experience in LO as well as the required infrastructure such as radar target scattering facilities. The Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group or CAC ( , abbreviated as ) at that time had experience with the J-5, J-7, J-9 and J-10 programs. The Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute (CADI) Number 611 Design Institute or serves as the primary design group under CAC. Their rival, the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation s (SAC) Design Institute ( ) or 601 Institute, drew experience from Chinese Flanker programs such as the J-11. During the early 2000s, images of unknown credibility emerged regarding CAC and SAC concepts for Project 718.


Image: CAC s J-XX proposal as of the China Aerospace Science and Technology from 2000.

The first credible look at a CAC s J-XX conceptual framework emerged in 2001. Song Wencong ( ), chief designer of the Chengdu J-10, published an academic paper titled, Research on Aerodynamic Layout of a High Lift Aircraft with Small Aspect Ratio ( ). The work describes a prospective fighter configuration featuring a blended lifting body with a canard-delta planform separated by a pair of leading-edge root extensions (LEX). The design featured pair of caret inlets similar to the F-22 and F/A-18E/F. Song Wencong notes the incorporation of S-shaped intakes, fuselage shaping, and an internal weapons bay would provide excellent signature performance. An image from the China Aerospace Science and Technology expo in 2000 shows a Chengdu model closely matching these aforementioned features. SAC s design effort reportedly was led by Li Tian ( ) whose team developed the Snowy Owl concept.

SAC s proposal features a tri-plane planform consisting of canards, trapezoidal wings and a four-tail layout. The planform reportedly was optimized to exceed the PLAAF s high AoA requirement.

Some have alleged both Chengdu and SAC sought Russian assistance in the early phases of the J-XX program such as supplying technical details on the canceled MiG 1.44 demonstrator. Renowned Russian aerospace authority, Piotr Butowski, argues cooperation at an official level was highly unlikely. For example, Russian specialists arriving in China to work on Su-27s and Su-30s are denied access to domestic Chinese Flankers let alone more sensitive projects. Butowski believes that any technical assistance on behalf of the Russians would have been on an individual and unsanctioned basis.

It s unknown when Chengdu won source selection, but the company appointed Yang Wei ( ) to lead development of the project. Yang Wei worked under Song Wencong on the J-10 program and developed its flight control system. He had graduated with a master s in-flight dynamics from Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU, ). Separately, work on the accompanying WS-15 powerplant began sometime prior to 2005 when the first bench test was conducted. Development work on the J-20 had progressed significantly by November 2009. The People s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Deputy Commander Gen. He Weirong ( ) stated China was close to testing its next generation fighter prototype.

On Jan.11, 2011, the first J-20 technology demonstrator took flight for 18 min. Test pilot Li Gang ( ) had been preparing for the flight for more