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Photos and analysis of China's J-20 fighter as it nears first flight

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Abraham Gubler

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InvisibleDefender said:
saw this over at the Key Forum ...
This is a very interesting picture: super high deflection on the all moving vertical tails. This kind of deflection is far more than you could ever need for yaw from such a big rudder surface. Perhaps it’s a form of air brake, particularly for landings like the Gripen’s candards?
 

Avimimus

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Interesting conversation, but I've nothing to think.

Dreamfighter said:
It still hurts my eyes, seeing a Flatpack with a Raptor's nose.
"Flatnose"?
I know! The PAK-FA - I basically had figured out the general layout several years ago (at least, I'd speculated on the larger LERX) - but this is new to me. The layout reminds me of the Mig-37B Ferret more than it reminds me of anything of this earth. Visual psychoactive stealth.

*edit with some thoughts*
quellish said:
Abraham Gubler said:
Most fighters unable to cruise supersonically still have a useable supersonic capability to give themselves that extra kinematic advantage. Supercruise is great for spending little time inside a defended area you want to bomb or for going from a CAP station to an intercept point. But its advantage in air to air combat is minimal.
I was not aware that supercruise has been used in combat. Has the above been demonstrated? I know that for intercepts the AK F-22s carry external tanks, with which they can't supercruise to intercept.
Supercruise might be important for being able to rapidly move between areas, sweeping over them before ground control or air-defenses can effectively react. It might also be important for long pursuits, but it does seem to be the case that it is the maximum speed (and acceleration during supersonic maneuvers) which is critical during actual engagements, doesn't it?

Abraham Gubler said:
Like the PAK FA this appears to be a very mediocre attempt at a 5th generation aircraft.
Not to raise a dead horse out of the pond in which it lies - but 5th generation is a very vague term, almost contradictory and likely to lead to pointless debates. If we're defining 5th generation by the F-22 then these aircraft are all much more advanced in some areas (eg. computer processors) and less optimised for the pure air-superiority task - so they become 4/6th generation. Or one can define generation by the typical aircraft of a period and their average performance capabilities (in which case the standard can be diluted or raised by the other designs).

So, aside from throwing some mud (deservedly or undeservedly) - I don't see what this comment means.
 

Avimimus

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Abraham Gubler said:
InvisibleDefender said:
saw this over at the Key Forum ...
This is a very interesting picture: super high deflection on the all moving vertical tails. This kind of deflection is far more than you could ever need for yaw from such a big rudder surface. Perhaps it’s a form of air brake, particularly for landings like the Gripen’s candards?
Abraham, my guess on the PAK-FA is that the deflections could be for use at extremely low speeds (eg. towards the end of supermaneuvering). One of the interesting features of the PAK-FA is that it is supposed to be supermaneuvrable in yaw as well as pitch - which may also make recovery more important (although one might expect smaller stabilisers? I don't really know). I have no idea with the J-20.
 

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Abraham Gubler said:
InvisibleDefender said:
saw this over at the Key Forum ...
This is a very interesting picture: super high deflection on the all moving vertical tails. This kind of deflection is far more than you could ever need for yaw from such a big rudder surface. Perhaps it’s a form of air brake, particularly for landings like the Gripen’s candards?
A bit weird that the rudders are the only part in focus don't you think? It was probably a real photo once but it's been manipulated, at least to add the watermark.

Cheers, Woody
 

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LowObservable said:
why would the out-of-plane angle of the canards be a problem? That was not the case with the YF-23 tails.
Or, in theory, the NATF-23's canards.
 

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saintkatanalegacy said:
bah... finally done :p

edit: corrected the tail
edit2: corrected the cockpit
1) Notice the canopy should be moved more forward with nose enlonger
2) the tip of dorsal fin should be much rare of nozzle so you'd better move its position backward alittle more.
3) the lip of inlet looks backward rather than forward
4) If you enlarge the canards, it will be more closer to real one
5) the tip of canard contains a high swept angle not forward but rearward
6) the rare line of main wing is straight without any swept angle not backwards even forwards

your drawing is pretty nice, appreciated!
 

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You deploy "carrier killing" MRBM and roll out your new stealth plane and then defense ministers start to talk like like:

“In the coming five years, our military will push forward preparations for military conflict in every strategic direction,” said Liang Guanglie in an interview published by several state-backed newspapers in China. “We may be living in peaceful times, but we can never forget war, never send the horses south or put the bayonets and guns away,” Mr Liang added.
 

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SOC said:
LowObservable said:
why would the out-of-plane angle of the canards be a problem? That was not the case with the YF-23 tails.
Or, in theory, the NATF-23's canards.
Viewing the Chinese as competitors, I for one am glad that the Chinese fighter is using a canard. I think the conventional wing/tail like on the f-35 is better for a variety of reasons. Look closely at the f-35 refueling, the main wing (forward) is taking the aerodynamic loads which allows for a lot of accurate quick maneuver especially fine adjustments needed for tasks like refueling, (and shooting the gun) I might add. A canard is going to be a lot less accurate in up close and slow fine maneuver such as when refueling. With an unstable design with the tail providing lift too, the f-35 can still maneuver as good as a canard. I think the Chinese got on that canard track with the j-10 and can't get off. Like the Lockheed engineer said "let the canard be on the other guys plane" and birds don't have their tail surfaces in front either.
We would be seeing canards on unmanned and 6th generation fighters if they are a better solution, but we probably wont.

http://www.youtube.com/v/7xR_3H0qaTE?version=3
 

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Back to topic please :)

Closeup of main gear.

Source: www.calf.cn
 

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saintkatanalegacy

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rousseau said:
1) Notice the canopy should be moved more forward with nose enlonger
2) the tip of dorsal fin should be much rare of nozzle so you'd better move its position backward alittle more.
3) the lip of inlet looks backward rather than forward
4) If you enlarge the canards, it will be more closer to real one
5) the tip of canard contains a high swept angle not forward but rearward
6) the rare line of main wing is straight without any swept angle not backwards even forwards

your drawing is pretty nice, appreciated!
heh, you can imagine how hard it is to draw a plane like that by piecing tid bits of low quality pictures together :D
 

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The high deflection could be caused by lack of hydraulic pressure as well. Many a/c when at rest with no hydraulic pressure the flight controls fall different directions & excessive travel.


Avimimus said:
Abraham Gubler said:
InvisibleDefender said:
saw this over at the Key Forum ...
This is a very interesting picture: super high deflection on the all moving vertical tails. This kind of deflection is far more than you could ever need for yaw from such a big rudder surface. Perhaps it’s a form of air brake, particularly for landings like the Gripen’s candards?
Abraham, my guess on the PAK-FA is that the deflections could be for use at extremely low speeds (eg. towards the end of supermaneuvering). One of the interesting features of the PAK-FA is that it is supposed to be supermaneuvrable in yaw as well as pitch - which may also make recovery more important (although one might expect smaller stabilisers? I don't really know). I have no idea with the J-20.
 

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bobbymike said:
You deploy "carrier killing" MRBM and roll out your new stealth plane and then defense ministers start to talk like like:

“In the coming five years, our military will push forward preparations for military conflict in every strategic direction,” said Liang Guanglie in an interview published by several state-backed newspapers in China. “We may be living in peaceful times, but we can never forget war, never send the horses south or put the bayonets and guns away,” Mr Liang added.
Its probably not a coincidence that Chinese leakages about their fifth generation fighter just comes days after India signed a contract with Russia, as a statement of intent to move definitely ahead on FGFA. Guess China are probably unnerved enough to send a message to my country (India) as well.
 

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Looking over the above discussion it is interesting to see the amount of mirror imaging going on using western systems and tactics as a baseline. Given the apparent impressive size & volume of the J-20 (high fuel fraction?), an attempt at RCS reduction biased toward the frontal arc, & super-cruise are we perhaps looking at something more analogous to the old Soviet concept of an ultra long range heavy interceptor / AWACS / JSTARS killer?

Questions: What is the estimated SFC of the J-20's (interim) engines? Is the PRC actively developing AAMs in the AA-9/R-33 class?
 

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I hope I got it right this time :)

I really think the nozzle outer lip is swept forwards judging by the latest pic, at least that's how I know DSI inlets are done

redone the delta wing and enlarged the canards

cockpit glass shortened

notice that the leading edge of main wing just behind the canard is blended into the fuselage rather being a wing per se

strangely, the slats' leading edge is placed a little behind the wings' leading edge
 

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Tom Thumbz Blues said:
.....are we perhaps looking at something more analogous to the old Soviet concept of an ultra long range heavy interceptor / AWACS / JSTARS killer?
I was wondering the same thing. Another possibility is that one of it's roles may be as a (theatre level?) recon bird. Especially given that the Global Hawk type fanboys (on both sides of the Pacific) seem to have lost a fair bit of clout lately.
 

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sanjeev.k said:
Its probably not a coincidence that Chinese leakages about their fifth generation fighter just comes days after India signed a contract with Russia, as a statement of intent to move definitely ahead on FGFA. Guess China are probably unnerved enough to send a message to my country (India) as well.
Nonsense, this aircraft has been underdevelopment for years its appearance now will have been set by a timeline laid out years ago.
 

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Abraham Gubler said:
LowObservable said:
AG - If he is an actual professional LO engineer and you're reading his report, how come you're discussing it on a public forum? And if he's drawing conclusions without planform imagery, I would pull his LO License then and there.
Because he’s just doing the same thing we are doing: shooting the breeze with others of shared interests. This is a long way from talking about issues that are not in the public domain or breeching security clearances. But it does illustrate just how inaccurate the common, public accepted view of what constitutes LO design is.

I'm sure that China knows a little more than the "common public" so no matter what the "public" thinks or not, China is developing a stealth fighter and would not be putting money in it unless they were confident it worked and was competitive.

LowObservable said:
Seems to me that a lot of people are getting caught up in an "it's different so it's bad" attitude.
LOL!!! So it’s OK to declare this is a 5th generation aircraft and the end of US and ‘friends of US’ airpower dominance based on the appearance of a nose chine and a dark grey paint job but it’s not OK to see things missing and display some logical scepticism. Like the PAK FA this appears to be a very mediocre attempt at a 5th generation aircraft.
This "mediocre" aircraft is probably a lot more capable than YOU think. And China is a master at taking "products" and producing them cheaply. The US will probably be buying its stealth fighters from China like everything else, including semiconductors and food. I don't see how it is cost effective to make just about anything in the US anymore. Didn't Boeing move a factory to China? Apart from being consumers of products it seems the USA is becoming "irrelevant" at least economically, soon it will be militarily as well. Go ahead and scoff at this "mediocre" fighter but do so at you're own peril.
 

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kcran567 said:
Abraham Gubler said:
LowObservable said:
AG - If he is an actual professional LO engineer and you're reading his report, how come you're discussing it on a public forum? And if he's drawing conclusions without planform imagery, I would pull his LO License then and there.
Because he’s just doing the same thing we are doing: shooting the breeze with others of shared interests. This is a long way from talking about issues that are not in the public domain or breeching security clearances. But it does illustrate just how inaccurate the common, public accepted view of what constitutes LO design is.

I'm sure that China knows a little more than the "common public" so no matter what the "public" thinks or not, China is developing a stealth fighter and would not be putting money in it unless they were confident it worked and was competitive.

LowObservable said:
Seems to me that a lot of people are getting caught up in an "it's different so it's bad" attitude.
LOL!!! So it’s OK to declare this is a 5th generation aircraft and the end of US and ‘friends of US’ airpower dominance based on the appearance of a nose chine and a dark grey paint job but it’s not OK to see things missing and display some logical scepticism. Like the PAK FA this appears to be a very mediocre attempt at a 5th generation aircraft.
This "mediocre" aircraft is probably a lot more capable than YOU think. And China is a master at taking "products" and producing them cheaply. The US will probably be buying its stealth fighters from China like everything else, including semiconductors and food. I don't see how it is cost effective to make just about anything in the US anymore. Didn't Boeing move a factory to China? Apart from being consumers of products it seems the USA is becoming "irrelevant" at least economically, soon it will be militarily as well. Go ahead and scoff at this "mediocre" fighter but do so at you're own peril.
Oh joy. Looks like the chicom spambots found out about Secret Projects.
 

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Agreed - enough with the politics. Stick to technical speculations and analysis please.
 

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saintkatanalegacy said:
I hope I got it right this time :)

I really think the nozzle outer lip is swept forwards judging by the latest pic, at least that's how I know DSI inlets are done

redone the delta wing and enlarged the canards

cockpit glass shortened

notice that the leading edge of main wing just behind the canard is blended into the fuselage rather being a wing per se

strangely, the slats' leading edge is placed a little behind the wings' leading edge
You've given it square engine inlet edges. Is there any evidence for this? I know it isn't clear from the pictures but angled edges (swept or forward swept) seems more likely.

Good to see the Chinese (unlike the Americans, Russians and Japanese) haven't abandoned rearward vision from their cockpit.

It's great to see this configuration in metal. It's almost identical to concept of mine for a Tomcat replacement (canards are good for STOL) except I had a 2 man cockpit and 2D nozzles. But that was soon after the YF-22 came out. This plane could be a culmination of 90s cliches or simply the obvious next step instead of the reto-conservatism of the F-35s layout.

I hope when we get to see the plan view it looks a bit more elegant than the MiG 1.44 dumpy proportions everyone's expecting. :)

Cheers, Woody
 

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Engines,

Seems to be the one, immediate, big unanswered question. And it is a very interesting question indeed as it would go someway to answering allot of the questions about the types size and performance were we to know. To my mind there are 3 primary options;

1) AL-31F variant- AL-31FN as in J-10, plausibly some of the developed versions that have been produced, AL-31FM2/3?

2) WS-10A; seems to be slowly making its way into Chinese flanker variants so it is certainly possible, though I find it unlikely as, to date, the WS-10A does not seem to have been overly successful.

3) D30; we know that Saturn has been supplying D-30KP-2 variants to China and the type has made it onto a H-6 prototype but that particular variant may not be be well suited to what appears to be a fighter/strike platform. These would be interesting as it would make for a large aircraft.

To me, these seem like the the most likely options with the outside contenders being some as yet unknown (by me) Chinese indigenous engine, or an unannounced sale of the 117S by Russia?

Does anybody have any thoughts, musings or insights?
 

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The production model would obviously use WS-15, which is aiming at 17,000kg+ thrust.

Currently, its most likely AL-31F. Mature engine, reliable, good for testing a new airframe.

Its interesting that a few people on Chinese forums have suggested this particular aircraft may be more like EAP - more of a tech demonstrator than a true prototype which may be a few years away still.

Time will tell.
 

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Given that even Russia seems to be having issues coming up with a suitable engine for PAK-FA I'd guess China's a ways away from an F119/F135 class engine.
 

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overscan said:
Back to topic please :)

Closeup of main gear.

Source: www.calf.cn
Oooooo..... this makes me wonder if they have a new antiship missile in development too.

Avimimus said:
Supercruise might be important for being able to rapidly move between areas, sweeping over them before ground control or air-defenses can effectively react. It might also be important for long pursuits, but it does seem to be the case that it is the maximum speed (and acceleration during supersonic maneuvers) which is critical during actual engagements, doesn't it?
raised by the other designs).
I'd argue that based on actual combat experiences, training, and specifically DACT, has more of a direct impact on the outcome of AA engagements than anything else.
In exercises, the F-22's stealth and sensors make it a force multiplier. If it received some upgrades that make it easier to share data securely, etc. even more so - however those upgrades may not happen, arguably because it threatens the F-35 program.
None of the above, however, really have a place in known PLA doctrine. It will be interesting to see how "J-20" fits into the PLA (if at all, as it may only be a demonstrator), though there are some very interesting clues in the details of the design.
 

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Chengdu may have a competing Huashan advanced turbofan engine program, which some Chinese sources note is based on its late-1990s acquisition of the engineering data and sales rights to the Tumansky R-79 turbofan developed for the defunct Yakovlev Yak-141 supersonic vertical/short-takeoff-and-landing fighter.
http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_generic.jsp?channel=defense&id=news/dti/2010/01/01/DT_01_01_2010_p65-188015.xml&headline=Chinese%20Chengdu%20J-10%20Emerges

Hmm. Another contender.
 

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Looks like this model shown a while ago (I forget where) was actually pretty damn close to the real thing, apart from a few details such as the tail shape and the length of the tail booms.

Regardless, what we've got so far is a pretty large twin-engine airframe with a canard-delta layout. Guessing about whether it is or isn't F-22 class LO is ridiculous until you see a lot more detail in the panel arrangement and the overall layout of the airframe. I will say that the clean lines, serrated doors, and pinched joints seem to indicate that they have put thought and effort into reducing the RCS, regardless of how low it turns out being. I've seen people mention in various places that the fact it is painted may indicate that it has already flown, given that aircraft like the J-10 and J-11 were seen flying trials unpainted, but my thought is that they've specifically done this to mask the actual complete appearance of the aircraft's external arrangement, access panels, doors, and the like. That makes it harder to fine-tune RCS estimates.

Right now it appears that no TVC is fitted, as the nozzles don't droop when the jet is powered down. Or, if TVC nozzles are fitted, they are likely electrically actuated rather than being driven by hydraulic pressure. Won't know until we see it maneuvering hard in flight, or otherwise employing the nozzles. With possible TVC, all-moving canards, and all-moving tails, it would appear that while the clean lines and planform seem to indicate a focus on speed, it isn't going to be a slouch in the maneuvering department either. However when I look at the layout I do sense that speed was a factor in the design.

It's a BIG airplane. Many estimates put it larger than the F-22A and T-50. This means a large internal fuel load, or a large internal weapons load, or a degree of both. Now, more fuel does not instantly translate into "it can outrange the Raptor or T-50". Given the comparative immaturity of Chinese fighter engine development, the 117S and F119 likely get better fuel economy. That's just speculation of course, but it makes sense from an analytical standpoint right now. There is also the issue of supercruise, which as far as we know China hasn't been flight testing all over the place. This all translates into what is likely an underpowered, underperforming prototype relying on off-the-shelf engines. Things will likely pick up if and when China gets a viable powerplant fielded, or if they have actually imported Russian engines.

Given that this appears to be a large aircraft with what likely amounts to good range and payload capability due to the internal volume, the real question is what the hell they want it for. Obviously they want to field it, I'm thinking more along the lines of intended role. Where does it fit into the future PLAAF? My guess, given the range this thing will have (closer to Su-27 or F-22 class rather than J-7 or J-10 class), it will likely serve as a replacement for the PLAAF's extant Su-27SKs, J-8IIs, and eventually unmodified J-11s. The range and a decent RCS may allow it to also be produced in a recon variant or with an uploadable recon sensor pack.

I'd estimate that the primary mission of the airframe is air combat, regardless of whatever air to surface capability it may have. China has stated that new air to surface missiles being developed now must fit into this things bays, alluding to the relatively high sit of the jet on the ground allowing for clearance under the fuselage of larger weapons than a typical BVR AAM. But, given China's current preference for standoff missiles rather than close-in weapons like a JDAM, even though they have developed such weapons, points to an air combat primary mission. A/S capability and mission will therefore likely be closer to the F-22A rather than the F-35, but with a ton of standoff missile platforms like the JH-7A and H-6 that really isn't a concern for the PLAAF or PLANAF.

The appearance of the aircraft also means that we can expect China's air defense weapons to become more effective in the future, specifically against LO targets. Having a legitimate LO airframe flying around makes it far easier to develop and optimize sensors and weapons to combat such aircraft. You can do a lot of work in simulations and with computer modeling, but at the end of the day being able to realistically evaluate such systems does make a difference. That's one aspect of this whole program that I for one feel is frankly being ignored.

At the end of the day, the J-20 looks like a serious step forward in China's military aviation program. The one potential drawback I can think of is that it seems like getting this thing ready to begin taxi and flight trials has slowed the J-10B somewhat. It could be argued that the J-10B, as a potential replacement for the Q-5/A-5 and extant J-7s, would be a more pressing requirement, but once the J-20 is zipping around on trials the J-10B should be back on track as well.

And that represents my preliminary thoughts on China's new toy.
 

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Interesting comments.

sealordlawrence said:
sanjeev.k said:
Its probably not a coincidence that Chinese leakages about their fifth generation fighter just comes days after India signed a contract with Russia, as a statement of intent to move definitely ahead on FGFA. Guess China are probably unnerved enough to send a message to my country (India) as well.
Nonsense, this aircraft has been underdevelopment for years its appearance now will have been set by a timeline laid out years ago.
*cough*
Unveiling and development are two very different words ;)
Easy to miss in such a discussion.
 

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Avimimus said:
Interesting comments.
*cough*
Unveiling and development are two very different words ;)
Easy to miss in such a discussion.
You have to have developed something in order to be able to unveil it, even if it is just an airframe with some engines in it. The idea that this was unveiled due to a paper agreement between Russia and India is preposterous.
 

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Engines,

I am not sure that WS-15 is as obvious as we might think it is, whilst we have a programme name and a rough target thrust we do not know what the desired physical dimensions are to achieve that, or how reliable the stated thrust figure is.

there is also more than one long term Chinese candidate, WS-10G, as a much enhanced WS10A, has been reported as under development and there is the much larger WS18 as a D30 class engine.

Then of course we have this obscure Huashan reference as well.

Delaying J-10B,

I am not sure the Chinese care that much, in fact there seems to have been an effort to get as many companies as possible to engage in as many programmes as possible, be they new airframes or modifications of existing designs. I wonder whether this has been an effort infuse practical experience into the design and engineering teams to help build up an intellectual base.
 

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Woody said:
saintkatanalegacy said:
I hope I got it right this time :)

I really think the nozzle outer lip is swept forwards judging by the latest pic, at least that's how I know DSI inlets are done

redone the delta wing and enlarged the canards

cockpit glass shortened

notice that the leading edge of main wing just behind the canard is blended into the fuselage rather being a wing per se

strangely, the slats' leading edge is placed a little behind the wings' leading edge
You've given it square engine inlet edges. Is there any evidence for this? I know it isn't clear from the pictures but angled edges (swept or forward swept) seems more likely.

Good to see the Chinese (unlike the Americans, Russians and Japanese) haven't abandoned rearward vision from their cockpit.

It's great to see this configuration in metal. It's almost identical to concept of mine for a Tomcat replacement (canards are good for STOL) except I had a 2 man cockpit and 2D nozzles. But that was soon after the YF-22 came out. This plane could be a culmination of 90s cliches or simply the obvious next step instead of the reto-conservatism of the F-35s layout.

I hope when we get to see the plan view it looks a bit more elegant than the MiG 1.44 dumpy proportions everyone's expecting. :)

Cheers, Woody
the inlet lips are swept forward a tiny bit... kinda like the J-10...

at least that's how my eyes see it at the recent overhead photo...

edit: confirmed B)
 

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This 3D visualisation attempt has been posted at the Keypublishing forums and other than that the wing tips seem to have been cropped the wrong way round, it looks about right to me. Perhaps our best look at the planform shape until it flies and we get photographic evidence.

Other than that, any comments on my attempts to identify certain components on the first two photos? Regarding the gun, does China have an effort in place to reverse engineer the excellent GSh-30-1 or produce a comparable clean-sheet design? While the importance of guns in modern air combat has obviously decreased, the 23mm gun used on indigenous Chinese designs is probably the weakest in any recent combat aircraft. As for the "probe", could this be a mounting point for a detachable external probe (patterned after the J-10), since it seems a bit small to be the door covering a retractable one?
 

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sferrin

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Huh. Just eye-balling proportions I'd have thought 70-ish feet long. ???
 

Steve Pace

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sferrin said:
Huh. Just eye-balling proportions I'd have thought 70-ish feet long. ???
I agree - it's a big airplane. -SP
 

Foxglove

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This has been an astounding year with the T-50 and J-20 revelation. I only hope that 2011 will be just as exciting. Happy New Year all!
 

Wil

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Hi!

Is this the Father (or Mother) of Mig 1.44 and J-20?

http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/gallery/photo/HiMAT/Medium/EC79-12055.jpg

http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/gallery/photo/HiMAT/Medium/ECN-14273.jpg

http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/gallery/graphics/HiMAT/Medium/EG-0055-01.gif

Is the J-20 a long range interceptor (like the Mig-31))??

Good 2011 for all!!
 
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