The Chinese Air Force (PLAAF) has unveiled the first look of a new, twin-seat variant of the J-20 stealth fighter. A video released on Wednesday also revealed another J-20 variant equipped with an indigenously-developed engine.
The video released by the state-owned Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC) shows four twin-seat J-20 fighters flying in a formation. The video showing computer-generated imagery was released on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the original aircraft’s maiden flight.
Developed and manufactured by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG), the fighter jet was flown for the first time in January of 2011.
Analysts have predicted that “the twin-seat J-20 could spawn more variations that are equipped with devices corresponding to these tasks”, according to state-owned Global Times.
The additional seat indicates there would be an additional pilot assigned with more complicated tasks such as electronic warfare, command of wingman drones, or tactical bombing, a Chinese military analyst told the GT.
Further, the domestic engine implies China will no longer rely on Russian engines. As per the GT report, the WS-10C engines have stealth capability which will provide more powerful thrust than the Russian engines previously used on the J-20.
The WS-10C engines are believed to be more capable than the Russian-made AL-31F ones. A powerful engine is necessary for modern fighter jets. A less capable engine like Russian AL-31F limits the capabilities of the aircraft along with affecting its maneuverability, fuel efficiency, and stealth capabilities at supersonic speeds, the analysts have said.
The indigenously-developed engines are seen as better as they use full authority digital engine control technology and improved afterburners. The domestic engines will allow mass production of the aircraft without the limitation of imported engines, analysts have said.
The J-20 will also use the powerful WS-15 engine, being developed domestically. China has been wanting to match the WS-15 to the F119 engine used by the Americans’ F-22 Raptor but in 2019 it had failed in the final evaluation.
The Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter is the most advanced indigenously built aircraft in the ranks of the Chinese military. The twinjet, the all-weather multirole fighter is seen as the competitor to the American fifth-generation stealth Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II and F-22 Raptors.