Nate “Buster” Jaros says China will have a fifth generation fighter, and its development of the J-20 (amongst other fifth gen platforms) is significant.

If you haven’t been paying much attention to the jet fighter news, you may have missed something big. In fact, it doesn’t get a lot of press and over the past couple of years this new emerging threat really hasn’t been on anyone’s, ahem…radar, much at all.

We’re talking about the Chinese Chengdu J-20. What some are calling “the Chinese F-22 Raptor.” Also known in some circles as the “Black Eagle.”

The J-20 is still shrouded in secrecy, and the political closed doors of modern China are not saying much either. I don’t blame them. They are catching up in technology, and in this case, fighter technology, and are committed to not being left behind. China will have a fifth-generation fighter, and its development of the J-20 (amongst other fifth gen platforms) is significant.

Let’s take a closer look at the J-20, based on what little information is out there.

At first glance the J-20 look’s kind of like an F-22 Raptor. Why wouldn’t it? The Chinese have been copying Russian and American technology for decades. In some cases, they have even improved the designs. In the case of the J-20, you may have forgotten that a few years ago, terabytes of classified US documents were lost or stolen by the Chinese. These documents were essentially the “blueprints” for the F-35 and U.S. stealth technology. From that breach, it is surmised that China has been able to piece together the basic tenets of stealth technology and apply them to its modern aircraft designs.


What we currently know about the J-20 is that it is a single-seat, twin-engine, canard/delta design, stealthy fighter platform. There are just four copies being tested right now, with fully operational fighters predicted to be ready by 2018.

The Black Eagle has two Saturn AL-31 engines producing about 30,000 lbs of thrust each. With the possibility of more powerful Xian WS-15 engines currently in development, those are speculated to produce 44,000 lbs of thrust each. For reference, the F-22 has roughly 35,000 lbs of thrust per engine.

The Black Eagle is big. It weighs an estimated 43,000 lbs empty / 80,000 lbs MTOW (Max Takeoff Weight). The Raptor weighs in at 43,000 lbs empty / 83,000 lbs MTOW. Personally, I believe that the J-20 will be a bit heavier than this, just based on size alone. These internet procured weight estimates seem a bit light to my best guesses. Here’s why.