China’s Stealth Jet Makes its First Flight

It’s official, China’s stealth fighter, the J-20, took its first flight today. The jet flew for about 15 minutes over the same airfield in Chengdu where it conducted high-speed taxi runs last week, according to the AP.

Sure enough, the plane’s first flight coincided with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ visit to China aimed at fostering closer defense ties between the two nations.

Apparently, Chinese officials revealed the jet in an effort to “to send the message that Beijing is responding to calls from the U.S. and others to be more transparent about its defense modernization and future intentions.”

Or, as former Air Force Lt. Gen. Tomas McInerney wrote on Fox News’ website recently:

This is another move by the Chinese to subtly send the current American administration — and our Asian allies signals — that they are investing heavily in military capabilities that will dominate Asia in the future.

Here’s an interesting excerpt from a New York Times article on the flight:

Mr. Gates said he directly asked Mr. Hu why [the flight] was conducted during a three-day trip that is meant to smooth over rocky relations between the United States military and China’s increasingly assertive armed forces.

Mr. Hu replied, Mr. Gates said, that it “had absolutely nothing to do with my visit.” Asked if Mr. Gates truly believed that, Mr. Gates said yes, but acknowledged he had questions about whether the Chinese military was acting independently of the political leadership. “I’ve had concerns about this over time,” Mr. Gates said.

Maybe China is being more open about its defense equipment modernization, but who knows what it intends to do with all those high-tech weapons? At a minimum, China’s new arsenal is being developed to keep 21st Century threats far from its shores. Still, how many times have we seen reports that it plans on using new-found military might to expand its influence throughout the region? What this means remains to be seen.

Here are some more great images of the jet in the air.

Here’s video of the flight.

  • Chops

    Maybe now Secretary Gates will realise that the most advanced fighter in the world-the F22 should remain in production-w/the Pak50 and the J20 the US will quickly fall behind and most everyone says the F35 is no match for either of the foreign stealth planes.Supposedly the cost of the F22 will drop to 70 or 80 mil. w/the purchase of 70 more planes-I think we should build them and also sell them to our most trusted Allies before we get so far behind our future antagonists that we can’t catch up.

  • prometheusgonewild

    Considering we have a 14 trillion dollar deficit (if you are curious, everyone in the US would have to give the government 43K to pay that off), the last thing we can do is spend a lot of money to counter these perceived threats.
    We do not know what the Chinese have in mind.
    At this point we just need to get the F-35 into production. Even if it is a really slow production. Having the F-35 on the Carriers will go a long way……
    With the debt we have, Military spending will be the first thing cut. Reforming Medicare will happen just about the time all the idiots in Washington realize they cannot pass the buck onto the next generation.
    Heaven forbid if they actually run the country and not their reelection campaign…..
    Either way, if the F-35 is not in production in the next couple years it may never happen……
    One way to get this to happen is to pressure south Korea, Japan and Taiwan to buy a bunch of them.
    Lets face it, we are too broke to keep China from trying to remedy every perceived insult from their neighbors they have gotten in the last hundred years…..
    Thanks to our idiotic tax policies and theirs; companies in the US are falling over themselves to lay people off here and build factories there. Like it or not our economies are interwoven and the best thing that can happen is for everyone to stay calm and do not do anything stupid.
    Unfortunately insular, Asian, communist leadership is hard to predict. They get frightened and run unarmed students over with tanks……

  • Maxtrue

    If the US really shred the production facilities for the Raptor and hopes it can reproduce tooling years from now, they are as smart as their predictions about Chinese capabilities. I will spare everyone the latest from Palmer. If the Chinese need until 2017, I rather doubt any NEW BOMBER will be ready by then…lol. I guess the US wastes in defense spending, what China spends for all defense spending. It is a CRIME we don’t do a better job. I still don’t understand the logic of sinkable LCSs with poor refueling ability and limited numbers of stealthy attack air craft. The Navy gave up a two engine jet so the Marines would get dissed their F-35B.

    The Chinese have proven we are lacking in Intel. A new bomber? Really? What decade? What this gives China besides future exports is something that can penetrate some lines of defense and deliver advanced missiles be they jammers, nukes, hypervelocity or ship killers…..

    And if our New Bomber is saddled with a nuclear mission, what role will it play in conventional struggles? Could China launch the J-20 from a carrier? If I saw a real learning curve on our part and resolve to whip together our MIC and strategy, I would be less concerned. I see a Congress hoping to lower defense spending, a media rather clueless and politicians willing to say anything to seem reasonable.

    Please, someone tell me anything Gates has been right about from Iran to China, from Russia to Caracas. The American people have every right to be angry about the billions wasted in defense spending, the pork and disjointed strategies. Everything is decided by committee. Contracts are signed with no clear product in sight. We simply don’t act like there is either limited resources or real strategic threats. Yes, let’s build some flying friggin jeeps.
    http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/blogs/defense/inde…

  • Maxtrue

    If the US really shred the production facilities for the Raptor and hopes it can reproduce tooling years from now, they are as smart as their predictions about Chinese capabilities. I will spare everyone the latest from Palmer. If the Chinese need until 2017, I rather doubt any NEW BOMBER will be ready by then…lol. I guess the US wastes in defense spending, what China spends for all defense spending. It is a CRIME we don’t do a better job. I still don’t understand the logic of sinkable LCSs with poor refueling ability and limited numbers of stealthy attack air craft. The Navy gave up a two engine jet so the Marines would get dissed their F-35B.

    The Chinese have proven we are lacking in Intel. A new bomber? Really? What decade? What this gives China besides future exports is something that can penetrate some lines of defense and deliver advanced missiles be they jammers, nukes, hypervelocity or ship killers…..

    • Maxtrue

      And if our New Bomber is saddled with a nuclear mission, what role will it play in conventional struggles? Could China launch the J-20 from a carrier? If I saw a real learning curve on our part and resolve to whip together our MIC and strategy, I would be less concerned. I see a Congress hoping to lower defense spending, a media rather clueless and politicians willing to say anything to seem reasonable.

      Please, someone tell me anything Gates has been right about from Iran to China, from Russia to Caracas. The American people have every right to be angry about the billions wasted in defense spending, the pork and disjointed strategies. Everything is decided by committee. Contracts are signed with no clear product in sight. We simply don’t act like there is either limited resources or real strategic threats. Yes, let’s build some flying friggin jeeps.
      http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/blogs/defense/inde…

    • Maxtrue

      And if our New Bomber is saddled with a nuclear mission, what role will it play in conventional struggles? Could China launch the J-20 from a carrier? If I saw a real learning curve on our part and resolve to whip together our MIC and strategy, I would be less concerned. I see a Congress hoping to lower defense spending, a media rather clueless and politicians willing to say anything to seem reasonable.

      Please, someone tell me anything Gates has been right about from Iran to China, from Russia to Caracas. The American people have every right to be angry about the billions wasted in defense spending, the pork and disjointed strategies. Everything is decided by committee. Contracts are signed with no clear product in sight. We simply don’t act like there is either limited resources or real strategic threats. Yes, let’s build some flying friggin jeeps.

    • Maxtrue

      (if this posts, please disregard others awaiting approval)

      And if our New Bomber is saddled with a nuclear mission, what role will it play in conventional struggles? Could China launch the J-20 from a carrier? If I saw a real learning curve on our part and resolve to whip together our MIC and strategy, I would be less concerned. I see a Congress hoping to lower defense spending, a media rather clueless and politicians willing to say anything to seem reasonable.

      Please, someone tell me anything Gates has been right about from Iran to China, from Russia to Caracas. The American people have every right to be angry about the billions wasted in defense spending, the pork and disjointed strategies. Everything is decided by committee. Contracts are signed with no clear product in sight. We simply don’t act like there is either limited resources or real strategic threats. Yes, let’s build some flying friggin jeeps.
      http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/blogs/defense/inde…

    • Neil

      F-22 tooling is being preserved.

    • Maxtrue

      (the second half of my original post above that didn’t make it past approval)

      And if our New Bomber is saddled with a nuclear mission, what role will it play in conventional struggles? Could China launch the J-20 from a carrier? If I saw a real learning curve on our part and resolve to whip together our MIC and strategy, I would be less concerned. I see a Congress hoping to lower defense spending, a media rather clueless and politicians willing to say anything to seem reasonable.

      Please, someone tell me anything Gates has been right about from Iran to China, from Russia to Caracas. The American people have every right to be angry about the billions wasted in defense spending, the pork and disjointed strategies. Everything is decided by committee. Contracts are signed with no clear product in sight. We simply don’t act like there is either limited resources or real strategic threats. Yes, let’s build some flying friggin jeeps.
      http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/blogs/defense/inde…

  • Wes

    We need to sell new production F22s to Australia and Japan, RIGHT NOW.

    Then after Obama is turned out of office in two years, the production line will be up and running, ready to accept new USAF orders.

    Hey, remember that Obama is so anti-F22 that he refused to give a speech in front of one in Alaska?

    Farewell anti-US POS, and Welcome new F22s to our forces!

  • eric

    here’s a thought, spend your time and money on ways to compete yourself out of the debt you got yourself in to. that would really scare the chinese.

  • Marc

    it’s really a good news.
    there is no right or wrong in the world, finnal power makes everthing.
    it’s history;
    what’s your feeling if we have stronger power and send air carrier to the bay to your home?
    that’s the feeling of us right now
    respect first then get respect, let’s see 20years later.

  • Strange

    i don’t think the F-35 can go against that… and great going picking the raptor over YF-23

  • brian

    My god that plane is ugly from every direction! We need to restart the Raptor production pronto so they can beautify the skies by shooting these hideous beasts down.

  • tony

    tax chinese imports, they devalue the currency anyway.
    and punish the hell out of American businesses setting up shop there!!
    We’ve given enough ideas in manufacturing and tech to china through
    corp greed period!!

    nuff said..

  • mark edgette

    We must reform now we will be conquerd by russia or china remember history will repeat itself

  • bravem

    China’s military build up should be no surprise as that nation grows on every level, there will be a need to protect their own interest, just as the US does! The worlds economies are to intertwind and all out war will hurt a lot of countries economically…. except for third world countries. Also building military hardware is way to create jobs, and keep people working; a lot of people are making good money off of the current wars.

  • Strange

    Raptor can’t restart, america has too much debt remember

  • Jay

    They have 1 plane that can fly for 15 minutes and Gates get nervous…

    If we were thinking ahead instead of sticking our heads in the sand we would be using China’s aggressive posturing to market the F22 to Japan and Australia (maybe India even) as a defensive system to counter the J-20. That way we can actually get our allies to help foot the development bill, and get them to fly the F22s for the tacair deterrent to restrain Chinese aggression. And save many American jobs.

    We should be spending our own money on submarines, advanced VLS systems, and SM-3 and AEGIS equipped surface ships to negate China’s ballistic missile threat. That would make China nervous instead.

  • tribulationtime

    HOHOHO!!! Happy New (chinese) Age. Resucite F22 add B-22 and F-22 Agile (near stealth) and put the users manual in chinese, Joke. Land Aegis version, stealth cruiser missile, KC-30 tankers ( the bigger), convencional multi warheads ballistics missiles, speed up P-8 production, small batch of SSK, Very updated Sentrys and Jstars, cut half LCS and build +4 Arleigh and double size USMC ….Electronic Iron Curtain and one speard (USMC). Or maybe…just to be friends.

  • Michael

    The J20 is just a research model to gain experience in stealth design, production, and tactics. Watch out for the real thing in about ten years. JSF’s will be sitting ducks by then.

  • Vitor

    From below it looks like the F-22 had a baby with Gripen.

    • Guest

      Anyone remember Firefox? Clint Eastwood? Anyone?

  • tribulationtime

    Yes!! If it was better than F22? Anyone can be equal to US? One to one a lot of weapons are better or equal to Made in america…..ahh Forgotten! Put 3 heavy divisions in afghanistan to block a 1500 miles walk to the 2 world natural gas reserve and 3 world petroleum reserve I R A N. Look a Map. In the Far East not significant reserves. Now The Global Warm is for real.

  • Tom

    from what i’ve seen until now - i can tell that this jet has a low RCS capability but it’s barely even a true stealth fighter/bomber.

  • ItchthreaT

    reading those comments makes me more sick, than eating fish and drinking milk…

    yes dear US people, china has some technology too and all u have to say: increase the budget for the military…

    maybe you should decrease that budget and stop feeling like a “global-police-officer”, u should send ALL of your troops back home instead spreading “democracy” that nobody wants, first of all, u should think about your own failed picture of an “peaceful world” where western governments rule everything.

    nobody wants mc-donalds in the hindu-kush, no one wants a nike t-shirt in somalia…

    and also NO ONE wants a new cold war.

    but reading those mind-limited comments makes me feel, that we already have a new cold war.

    fascism rules erm?!

  • ItchthreaT

    edit: “Could be the USA which has kept the peace in Asia for 60 years.”

    thx general faileye, i never lol`d so much…

  • John Deere

    Freedom? You sir, are an idiot.

    • Chops

      I guess I am an idealistic idiot.And you have the FREEDOM to tell me that.

      • crackedlenses

        Good one…..

  • Anthony

    The United States is no chump either, im sure we have fighter aircraft (unmanned im sure) that we can only dream of right now. I do support 100% the re opening of F22 production, as the JSF 1 engine design is a fail. There is NO reason we cant export the F22, are we worried about Australia or England or Japan turning on us?

    Bottom line is this is China’s most advanced military hardware, and our most advanced hardware is underground at Groom Lake, probably 10-15 years ahead of what we see today. The United States is not going anywhere military strength wise. We will revamp our economy to produce green technology and in a decade we will be Laughing at China.

  • chaos0xomega

    If you look carefully, you can see the strings holding it up…

    Anyway, I feel this is much ado about nothing, this looks to me to be more of a stealthy light bomber/strike aircraft rather than a fighter. Then again, maybe they got a bunch of short people to stand next to the plane to make it seem bigger…. In any case, we don’t know what it does, and it could simply be an attempt by the Chinese to cause a panic reaction to sink us into more debt…

    Though, I do agree that F-22 production should be restarted, and sold in limited numbers to our closest foreign allies (definitely not Israel). Axe F-35A and F-35B, we can all get by with the C model. So what if its not a superior air-to-air combatant, thats what we have the F-22 for. The F-35C could otherwise serve as a strike platform no problem. As Anthony pointed out, we have the cutting edge under wraps at Groom Lake or some other facility nobody has ever heard of, and if we’re already looking into 6th gen fighters, then whats the big deal?

  • Maxtrue

    And if our New Bomber is saddled with a nuclear mission, what role will it play in conventional struggles? Could China launch the J-20 from a carrier? Given Gate’s track record, if I saw a real learning curve on our part and resolve to whip together our MIC and strategy, I would be less concerned.

    We simply don’t act like there is either limited resources or real strategic threats. Yes, let’s build some flying friggin jeeps.
    http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/blogs/defense/inde…

  • Lance

    I agree with good -reader Who know if the plane can even compare up against the F-15 or F-22. It looks far less stealthy than a F-22, no vectored thrust. and lacks the speed and weapons load of the previous F-15. As far i as I know its a piece of junk that can fly. it will take years ant till 2017-2020 to field such planes anyway. all the doom and gloom is a little over played here.

  • Maxtrue

    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/12/lockheed-…

    Just a few more Raptors ordered could continue joint manufacturing and save the money for taking retooling out of mothballs later on. What ever happened to improving investments rather than tossing them away?

    As I am no expert, perhaps the skin needed for future manned and unmanned air craft will be too complex to retro-fit onto Raptors. It does seem a shame to dump the hundreds of billions. Perhaps upgrades to the B-1 might make it more lethal. The key to the J-20 seems whether Russia will sell China the engines needed. I’m having trouble seeing all the payload space for larger advanced missiles.

    If the J-20 is a fighter designed to unload and turn, then missiles and radar are key.

    • Jay

      Agreed. Japan, Aus, and Israel are ready to buy it. Selling to our allies would recoup costs, decrease per unit price tag, and save thousands of skilled US jobs.

      An upgraded B-1 would be very helpful. The B-1 could carry a heavier load, faster, than the B-52. With upgraded radars, avionics, and a stealth coating (like the radar absorbing coat on the F15SE) it could be very capable for another decade. Unfortunately, many of the airframes themselves are getting old. Still, a B-1 would make a great stop-gap missile carrier while working on a new bomber.

    • @Earlydawn

      Yep, I agree that the J-20 is probably a semi-stealthy missile boat.

  • William C.

    Restart F-22 production and incorporate technologies from the F-35 program. Lets go back to the “high-low” mix thinking instead of this F-35 only idea.

  • Justin H

    The J-20’s engines are right next to eachother, and their nozzles are old school and dont help disperse heat like the F-22’s or YF-23’s. So the IR signature of the beast has gotta be pretty bad.

  • Justin H

    “The impression here is of a big, long aircraft, 70+ feet from nose to tail, which would make sense for a number of reasons. Rob Hewson at Jane’s has reported that Russia has supplied 32,000-pound thrust 117S engines for the J-20, which would be adequate for an aircraft in the 80,000 pound class - with perhaps lower supercruise performance and agility than an F-22, but with larger weapon bays and more fuel.

    But ask yourself: why would China need or want a short-range stealth aircraft? Any targets with defenses that call for that capability are a long way from the mainland. Also, the bigger that the aircraft is, the more likely it is that it is a bomber as much as, if not more than, a fighter.” - Bill Sweetman of Aviation Week

  • Justin H

    The Chinese military has carried out a test flight of a stealth fighter jet without informing President Hu Jintao and the country’s civilian leadership, a senior US defence official said Tuesday.

    “It was clear that none of the civilians in the room had been informed (of the test flight),” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, describing a meeting between Hu and US Defense Secretary Robert Gates. - AFP

  • Justin H

    China says it expects the stealth plane to be operational some time between 2017 and 2019. - BBC

  • FtD

    Whoever discredit this plane only by seeing the pictures & without knowing any hard data are shallow & ignorant. Know thy enemy know thy self….. To rubbish your enemy without even knowing what exactly the J20 can do or what even it’s for (fighter? bomber?) is truly stupid indeed

    • Maxtrue

      Someone using Google Translate -rubbish should have been trash….lol

  • Hunter78

    All this talk of the engines and no thrust vectoring,.. this wouldn’t be the 1st time available engines were stuck in a new air frame, to be replaced by more advanced models later.

  • David Smith

    If there is one thing that my untrained eyes see about that aircraft from viewing it’s planform is that it appears statically stable to me.

  • Auyong Ah Meng

    I recommend if there is any selling…

    It should go to those hard core allies who will stick with America…

    Countries like: Japan, South Korea, Austrialia, England, Canada, Austria, Germany and (those you know will not re-sell the technology…yes i am pointing at one such country in the middle east…make it two…Iran which supposely pass on an F-14 tom-cat to the Soviet Union and America supposely number 1 ally slapped banged in the middle of that “restive” region which coincidently re-sell military technology [develop with their allies or passed to them by their allies] to PRC China)….

    It is really idiotic….you designed and develop the weopon and tech….and you allow it to easily falls into the hands of potential and real future enemies…

    It is sad.

  • Auyong Ah Meng

    To Anthony · 9 hours ago

    You are correct about the green technology…

    The problem is will the fat cats and gluttony rich pigs in america or other 1st world countries “re-sell” these “green” technology to PRC China for short term gains…

    And again who will be laughing…the PRC Chinese at the sheer idiocy of the 1st world and the self disrtructive greed of the “rich” at the expense of their own country long term viability…or will be it really be “use”…

    Sad.

  • @Earlydawn

    My bet is that the J-20 is a technology demonstrator that will eventually turn into a limited aspect stealth naval strike aircraft.

  • Justin H

    Whats with the number on the side, 2001? Anyway it looks like something out of Command & Conquer: Generals

    • crackedlenses

      Amen; napalm MIGs anyone?…..

  • Chimp

    Interesting… there could be two of them. The China Defence blog shows the exhausts of the WS10A and the Russian engine. The flying plane looks to have the WS10A, unless there’s another similar looking engine.

    Not really surprising about Hu Jintao not knowing about the flight. The PRC is *absolutely* not the monolithic entity lots of folk here portray it as. It’s a very complex place.

  • Roland

    Leet the YF-23 fly again. Say 2000 modified YF-23.
    http://www.fas.org/programs/ssp/man/uswpns/air/fi…

  • Matt Holzmann

    the plane actually doesn’t look very stealthy. Too many flat, large surfaces and the proportions look sort of wacky.

    This looks like a first draft using bits and pieces stolen from the US and Russia. As they steal more, the design will evolve.

  • Maxtrue

    http://www.sinocism.com/archives/1539 speculations about the game being played…

  • Curtis

    If that thing is stealth then I’m the king of Belgium. Too many flat panels, no sawtoothing, and nothing about the engine arrangement (test engines or no) seems to say LO. If this is their research plane, then I’d say they’re about fifty years in the past, and they still haven’t collected the right reading material.

    NOTHING, absolutely nothing about this design hints at stealth capability. so what does the design hint at?

    Extremely large size, large forward canards, two large engines, large wings canted slightly downwards (Ala XB-70), lets put it all together.

    IMHO this bird is a Mach 2+ long-range interceptor, designed to fly fast and far. Imagine the Mig-25 with legs. The large lifting surfaces and forward flight surfaces seem to hint at a plane that will quickly climb to high altitude, the weapons are internal in order to reduce drag.

    Where the bird differs from the Foxbat is that, in my opinion, its more offensively oriented. Its designed to interdict enemy aircraft outside of Chinese airspace, either the strike packages forming up, or the logistical “tail” of a strike force. (Refuelers, AWACs, cargo birds, CAPs over carriers and enemy airfields, etc.) You don’t need range for a defensive interceptor.

    • @Earlydawn

      Yep, seems like an interceptor.

  • Justin H

    I still thinks its a Gen 4+++ (4.75)

  • Justin H

    This is their idea of an FB-22. It is NOT an air superiority fighter.

    • Justin H

      Can carry at least 3 bombs internally, probably 4 or more.

  • Phil AC3R

    China is no doubt expanding their influence to their neighbors. Whether it is economically, socially, technologically, or through military advancements. However, we must keep in mind that China is moving away from being a labor-intensive nation to being capital-intensive. It will use its new status to spread it’s influence and build relations with its neighbors. China has the right to do so. Much like the US after Vietnam. So why do we treat this status with suspicion and paranoia? Doing so only prevents us from actually achieving our objectives and interests in the region, and we allow ourselves to be alienated by some of our allies in this process. I’m sure the people in Washington understand this principle. But it appears that they refuse to take a different approach? Maybe their strategy is to promote instability in order to remain as a nation with influence over its allies. Or maybe they just want another war? We need to tread carefully and stop acting with hipocracy.

  • Justin H

    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/01/old-schoo…

    DangerRoom has a good article about how F-15 might end up being our main weapon against the J-20 due to lack of F-22s and delays witht the F-35. It has a bigger nose cone which can carry a larger and more powerful AESA radar than our 5th gen fighters, and can carry more fuel with external tanks. I would personally buy some Silent Eagles if I were the head DoD weapons buyer.

  • RobW

    Here’s a concept: stop buying cheap inferior Chinese crap and buy American!

  • Darrell

    Seriously, nobody has noticed that this is the fake jet from the gay ass Clint Eastwood movie firefox?