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.