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J-20 Black Eagle [Black Silk?]
(Jianjiji-20 Fighter aircraft 20) / F-20

In August 2008 it was reported that 611 Institute [Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute] was selected to be the main contractor for the development of the fifth-generation stealthy J-20, and that 601 Institute [Shenyang Aircraft Corporation [SAC] was the sub-contractor. It was rumored that 611 Institute has started to issue manufacturing drawings for constructing the first prototype, which was expected to fly by 2012, even though the full configuration one won't fly until a few years later. The latest rumor suggested that a full-scale mock-up had been built at CAC.

In August 2008, a RAND study raised questions about the ability of US tactical aircraft, including the F-22, to counter large numbers of Chinese aircraft in a Taiwan Strait scenario. Though at that time the F-22 was assumed to be able to shoot down 48 Chinese Flankers when outnumbered 12:1 without loss, this did not take into account less-than-perfect US beyond-visual-range performance, or possible deployment of a new Chinese stealth fighter around 2020 or 2025.

One of the most significant revelations coming out of the 8th China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition, held in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province between November 16 and 21, 2010 [also known as Airshow China 2010] was official confirmation of the existence of two parallel R&D programs aimed at fielding a fourth-generation multi-role combat aircraft [MRCA] - the Jian J-14 - by 2014, and the fifth-generation Jian J-20 air dominance combat aircraft by 2018. Both these new-generation combat aircraft are being developed by the PLA Air Force's Nos 601 and 611 Institute, with Chengdu Aircraft Corp's Plant No132 (CAC) acting as the prime industrial contractor. The J-20 will be powered by twin uprated WS-10Gs, each of which will offer a maximum thrust of 155kN. It was on November 9 that the PLA Air Force's Deputy Commander, General He Weirong, confirmed the existence of both the J-14 and J-20 by saying that the former will soon be rolled out, while the latter will begin entering service by 2018. The J-20's design will be characterised by three 'S' capabilities: stealth, super cruise, super manoeuvrability and short take-off.

In a speech delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates (Economic Club of Chicago, 16 July 2009), he stated "by 2020, the United States is projected to have nearly 2,500 manned combat aircraft of all kinds. Of those, nearly 1,100 will be the most advanced fifth generation F-35s and F-22s. China, by contrast, is projected to have no fifth generation aircraft by 2020. And by 2025, the gap only widens. The U.S. will have approximately 1,700 of the most advanced fifth generation fighters versus a handful of comparable aircraft for the Chinese..."

On 29 December 2010, the right estimable China Defense Blog published the first no-kidding photographs of the long rumored J-XX Chinese stealth fighter. Unambiguous confirmation of the existence of this program will require re-evaluation of aircraft modernization efforts in a number of countried, including Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and the United States. Chinese combat aviation has made remarkable strides in recent years, moving from a collection of obsolete aircraft that would have provided a target-rich environment to potential adversaries. Today China flies hundreds of first rate aircraft, and even flies more Sukhoi Flankers [the aircraft the American F-22 was designed to counter] than does Russia. The Chinese stealth fighter has arrived right on schedule. Chinese military technology is generally rated about two decades behind that of the United States. while the advent of a Chinese counterpart to the F-22 fighter might be disconcerting, the first flight of the prototype American F-22 stealth fighter came on September 29, 1990.

On January 11, 2011, President Hu Jintao confirmed that the prototype J-20 aircraft had made its maiden flight at around 1 p.m. that day. The flight coincided with a visit to China by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The flight was reported to have lasted 20 minutes; during which the aircraft was tailed by two J-10 fighters. Certain news accounts reported that the Chinese civilian leadership had been caught unaware by the timing of the flight.

The J-20 is a single-seat, twin-engine aircraft, bigger and heavier than the Sukhoi T-50 and the F-22. Comparison with ground-service vehicles points to an overall length of 75 ft. and a wingspan of 45 ft. or more, which would suggest a takeoff weight in the 75,000-80,000-lb. class with no external load. That in turn implies a generous internal fuel capacity. The overall length is close to that of the 1960s General Dynamics F-111, which carries 34,000 lb. of fuel.

The J-20 has a canard delta layout (like Chengdu's J-10) with two canted, all-moving vertical stabilizers (like the T-50) and smaller canted ventral fins. The stealth body shaping is similar to that of the F-22. The flat body sides are aligned with the canted tails, the wing-body junction is clean, and there is a sharp chine line around the forward fuselage. The cant angles are greater than they are on the Lockheed Martin F-35, and the frameless canopy is similar to that of the F-22.

Features at the rear of the aircraft-including underwing actuator fairings, axisymmetrical engine exhausts and the ventral fins-appear less compatible with stealth, so the J-20 may not match the all-aspect stealth of the F-22. There are two possible explanations for this: Either the aircraft seen here is the first step toward an operational design, or China's requirements do not place as much stress on rear-aspect signatures. It is considerably larger than the U.S.'s most advanced air superiority fighter, implying long range, a generous internal fuel capacity and heavy weapons loads.

The impression is of a big, long aircraft, over 70 feet from nose to tail, which would make sense for a number of reasons. Rob Hewson at Jane's reported that Russia supplied 32,000-pound thrust 117S engines for the J-20, which would be adequate for an aircraft in the 80,000 pound class. The J-20 may have lower supercruise performance and agility than an F-22, but with larger weapon bays and more fuel, according to Bill Sweetman, editor of Aviation Week/DTI. Chinese sources have claimed that production aircraft will be powered by two 13,200kg, WS-10 class high thrust turbofan engines, coupled with Thrust Vector Controlled (TVC) nozzles both made in China.

Most sources refer to the J-20 as the Black Eagle, but a non-trivial number use the nomenclature Black Silk.

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