A bizarre photo of what appears to be a Chinese Chengdu J-20 fighter at an airport in Savannah, Georgia (of all places) surfaced on the internet yesterday. Seeing as it seems like an absolute impossibility that one of the twenty or so operational J-20s in existence (boasting an estimated fuel range of only a thousand miles or so) could have found its way to America’s south, the question remains: what is this thing?

For those unfamiliar with China’s first foray into the 5th generation fighter world, the J-20 is an advanced fighter widely believed to have been based largely on stolen plans for Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor. Chinese national Su Bin is currently serving out a 46-month prison term for handing over those plans, as well as classified information pertaining to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and a number of other American military aircraft.

Despite receiving a leg up in their development of the J-20 by way of espionage, many have continued to question the J-20’s true stealth capabilities (the front canards would likely dramatically increase the fighter’s radar signature from any angle other than straight on) and China’s inability to put their forthcoming WS-15 engine into service has left the platform reliant on dated Russian engines that force the J-20 to choose between speed and range. Fifth generation fighters like America’s F-22 and F-35 both have “super-cruise capabilities,” which means they can sustain supersonic speeds without having to utilize their afterburners — dramatically increasing the distance these jets can cover for the same fuel expenditure.

This comparison shows the mystery photo (top) and a confirmed shot of a J-20 (bottom). The resemblance is clear, despite some subtle differences.

Despite critical suppositions about the J-2o, defense journalists and officials alike would both probably give a left leg to find one of these rare fighters laying around just a few hours from Atlanta… so if this picture is real (more on that later), what could it be other than a J-20?

This image prompts far more questions than it provides answers, but fortunately David Cenciotti’s crew over at The Aviationist has already done quite a bit of heavy lifting. The picture was first provided to them by a local source that the Aviationist chose not to disclose. According to their report, they were confident in the person’s credibility and after vetting the story further, were forced to conclude that there’s a high likelihood that this is a real picture that really seems to have been taken at the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport.