A few days ago, Fighter Sweep reported on an image that first surfaced on The Aviationist of an aircraft that certainly looked an awful lot like China’s most advanced fighter, the Chengdu J-20. The person who took the image claimed it was shot at the Savannah-Hilton Head Airport in Savannah, Georgia, and The Aviationist confirmed to a high degree of certainty that the backdrop of the photo indeed appeared to be the airport in question.

In this comparison between known footage of Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport and the mystery photo put together by Cenciotii, it looks like a solid match.

Rumors and theories quickly consumed the narrative, with some contending that it was a real J-20 delivered by a defector by way of Alaska, others happy to dismiss the story as “fake news,” and us here at Fighter Sweep all but certain that it was a prop for the forthcoming “Top Gun: Maverick.”

As much as I’d like to wag my finger at the first two groups, we were just as wrong as everyone else. I shared my assessment with David Cenciotti over at The Aviationist when he first released the photo, and although he seemed to agree that it was a likely possibility, he also hinted at a developing follow-up story that he and his team were chasing down. Now, they’ve shared their findings: the image really was taken in Savannah, Georgia, and it really is of something built to look just like a J-20… but it isn’t for the movies.

“It is a full scale replica and remained at the Air Dominance Center for a short period during the week of 4-6 Dec. The USMC is funding and directing the training objectives of this device,” Col. Emmanuel Haldopoulos, Commander of the Savannah Air Dominance Center, told them.