Chinese stealth J-20 with serial number 2051 has design changes

BEIJING ($1=6.99 Chinese Yuans) — China’s first fifth-generation fighter jet with stealth technology, the J-20, began delivery to the People’s Liberation Army Air Force in 2016. Six years later, on December 23rd, the first photos of the J-20 serial number 2051 appeared online. They are of interest because they show design changes.

Chinese stealth J-20 with serial number 2051 has design changes
Photo credit: Chinese Internet

First impressions on the photos show a much lower profile and also flatter than the standard canopy. Experts comment that this design will most likely improve the aircraft’s low radar signature [stealth] as well as airframe aerodynamics.

The flatter, low-profile canopy is strongly reminiscent of another Chinese stealth fighter currently in development, the FC-31. I.e. on the J-20 with serial number 2051, there is a much better merger with the raised spine of the J-20 than the previous production stealth fighters.

Although there is no official confirmation, experts believe that the fighter with serial number 2051 was equipped with WS-15 engines. If so, then this news is more significant than the previous one. The WS-15 is a completely Chinese engine. It is expected to be the most powerful engine ever into a twin-engine fighter.

The WS-15 engine has already been developed and continues to be tested. One of the tests was earlier this year when sources confirmed that the J-20 had successfully flown with this engine. The WS-15 should replace the WS-10C and WS-10B engines currently in use.

Chinese stealth J-20 with serial number 2051 has design changes
Photo credit: Chinese Internet

It can be argued that at present the US Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is the only competitor to the Chengdu J-20. The Chinese fifth-generation fighter is the second after its American competitor to be produced in a series. Although there are at least F-35s built for the US Air Force and allies, the J-20 is gaining very high production speed.

According to various sources on the web, the Chinese build 35 aircraft of this model per year. This product is expected to increase continuously until 2030. China has currently built 200 J-20s, while the F-35 program has built 875 units by December 2022.

Some experts say that the J-20 will continue to undergo changes, both in the design of the airframe and in the avionics of the aircraft. In the coming years until 2030, several hundred aircraft are expected to have small and significant changes in design.

The US created the F-35 program as an export version of the domestic F-22 Raptor. The F-35 was designed to replace the US fleet of F-16s and F-18s. According to some experts, the J-20 was created to answer the heavier and classier of the two fighters, namely the F-15.

Much international expert opinion claims that the changes to the Chinese fighter are being made as the US also improves the design and capabilities of the F-35. Thus, China and the US are currently in a league of their own, far from their competitors. The two major powers are expected to introduce a next-generation fighter jet almost at the same time – in the key year 2030.

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