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DECODED: How Did US Marines Add China’s ‘Most-Advanced Fighter Jet’ – Stealth J-20 Aircraft To Its Arsenal?

The US Air Force, Marine Corps, and the US Navy are known to be using realistic peer rival fighter aircraft for training purposes and for honing their combat skills.

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In 2018, the US Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force had filed a solicitation for contractors for providing Russian Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters. These helicopters were equipped with electronic tracking pods and were integrated into the simulated combat exercises held at the MCAS Yuma Range and Training Area (RTA).

Apart from this, the US Air Force operated two Soviet-era Mi-24s at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base for conducting dissimilar combat exercises with its HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters. According to reports, the service also conducts training exercises using the Russian Su-27 inside the secretive Area 51.

Earlier, as EurAsian Times reported – US Navy’s “adversary training” unit, the VFC-12 had uncovered the first “replica” of the Russian Sukhoi Su-57. Based at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia, VFC-12 provides adversary training to pilots.

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Now, it has a Russian Su-57 lookalike in its fleet, which is basically a F/A 18-E Super Hornet with new body paint. The color scheme is dubbed “Mako” within the VFC-12 circles while the same is called “White Shark” in Russia.

A US Navy Super Hornet in Su-57 color scheme. (Credit: VFC-12)

The US Air Force also closely observed the emergence of Chinese weapon systems. It was in December 2018, when images revealed a somewhat peculiar sighting.

Marine Corps Using ‘Chinese Jet’?

A replica of a Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon was spotted at an airport in Georgia, US, in 2018. The J-20 is a two-engine, fifth-generation stealth fighter developed by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).

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The images were reportedly taken in front of the US Air Dominance Center at the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport.

This December 2018 photo shows a mockup of a Chinese J-20 at a US military facility. (via The Aviationist)

This was later confirmed by Col. Emmanuel Haldopoulos, commander of the Savannah Air Dominance Center. He was quoted by The Aviationist as saying that “the aircraft, was a full-scale replica and remained at the Air Dominance Center for a short period during the week of 4-6 Dec [2018]. The USMC is funding and directing the training objectives of this device”.

The specific role that this realistic, full-scale mockup was supposed to play was not clearly stated by any of the official Marine Corps sources. The Marine Corps Training and Education Command (TECOM) issued a statement to the Marine Corps Times saying that this mockup Chinese aircraft spotted would be utilized for visual and sensor training purposes.

“The Corps’ operating forces collaborated with Marine Corps Range and Training Area Management Branch to identify various threat systems to replicate”, it said.

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“The initial aircraft mockup identified was a J-20 fighter to develop as a proof of concept, with a plan to develop additional threat aircraft and vehicles in the future”, TECOM explained.

“The prototype was built by a contractor in LaGrange, GA and was moved to Air Dominance Center (ADC) Savannah, Georgia to evaluate the assembly and disassembly process, heat and light signatures, and prepare for movement to the chosen training area in North Carolina.”

A Google Earth image of MCALF Bogue shows the J-20 mock-up. The Aviationist via Google Earth

The latest satellite imagery of the Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue in North Carolina, also known as the Bogue Field, revealed a J-20 replica parked on the left border of the northern apron, The Aviationist reported. This airfield serves as a Marine Corps’ East Coast site for conducting Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP) and carrier qualification.

China’s J-20 Fighter with domestic WS-10C engines. (via Twitter)

It is visited by MCAS Cherry Point’s AV-8B+ Harrier jump jets at regular intervals along with teams of the F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force, for conducting tests with the F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) jets.

The images date back to March 12, 2019. It was speculated that this J-20 mockup might be used as a day/night attack jet, as a helicopter pod, or for striking long-range targets in simulated combat on an enemy airfield.

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Even though the J-20 mockup was very realistic, it did bear some inaccuracies which are evident when seen from a close distance. Andreas Rupprecht, an expert on Chinese military aviation, gave some clarity regarding the J-20 replica spotted in 2018.

He said that the aircraft’s control surfaces had not moved while parked in a static position. He also said that the exhaust nozzles looked inaccurate and the landing gear was very different from that of a real Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon.

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