The new J-20 variant is expected to provide a major boost to China’s air combat capabilities. The fifth-gen stealth aircraft’s images have gone viral which appears to be a twin-seat version of the ‘Mighty Dragon’.
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Images doing the rounds on social media show the new J-20 in yellow primer paint. It features a two-seat tandem cockpit enclosed within an elongated canopy. The EurAsian Times could not independently verify the authenticity of these photographs.
With this new variant, often referred to as the J-20B, J-20AS, or the J-20S, China’s Mighty Dragon would become the world’s first dual-seat stealth fighter jet. This new aircraft had been highlighted by the PLAAF, according to a Chinese newspaper.
The latest J-20 jets are powered by China’s indigenous WS-10C engines. “The twin-seat variation of the J-20 could be used for electronic warfare, command of wingman drones or bombing, and the domestic engine means the J-20 is no longer reliant on Russian engines,” the state-owned Global Times reported, quoting military analysts.
The addition of a second seat to this fifth-generation stealth fighter provides various benefits as it is expected to provide more decision-making variables to air combat such as airborne drone coordination, electronic warfare, or intelligence analysis.
In a situation when connectivity with the ground is lost, jammed or disabled during combat, the presence of a second pilot will certainly provide a great tactical advantage.
This assumes significance at a time when an increasing amount of information is gathered and transmitted via hi-tech and fast computer processing along with advanced AI-enabled algorithms. With these advancements, the amount of information that is provided to a pilot nowadays is much higher than what it was earlier.
Even though advanced computers can to a great extent gather, process, organize and analyze time-sensitive information, there are times when the pilots lack the ability to make certain complex decisions in a combat situation.
Here, a second pilot comes in handy who could oversee the nearby drones’ operation, analyze and decide upon the threat information received as well as coordinate communication with air and ground assets while the pilot is engaged in a combat task.
Still waiting for confirmation, but it looks at least realistic … allegedly the first two images of the J-20 twin-seater were leaked.
(Image via Quian CDer/SDF) pic.twitter.com/0s2i2Vq7Rr
— @Rupprecht_A (@RupprechtDeino) October 26, 2021
These capabilities can make the fighter jet a great force multiplier. Having another brain available to help best employ the J-20’s own weapons is also a plus, especially as its arsenal expands and its missions continue to evolve, according to The War Zone.
The twin-seat variant provides a greater training advantage. Even if the rear cockpit of the ‘J-20B’ is not configured with the whole range of controls as the first one, pilots can get exposure to tactical training and base operations through the second seat accommodation.
Furthermore, the presence of another crewman in the cockpit can partially offset some of the disadvantages in the unmanned autonomy and networking capabilities as this crewman would be focused on implementing the manned-unmanned teaming tactics.
Nevertheless, China is working towards building its own artificial intelligence-related air combat initiatives to be used in the cockpit and in unmanned platforms.
So far, no official confirmation has come out confirming the authenticity of the new images, which are similar to the first glimpses of the J-20. Even at that time, many people said that they were not real, only to be proved wrong.
Spotted somewhere in a corner at the Zhuhai Air Show 😯… a conceptual artwork of the proposed two-seater J-20; sometimes called J-20AS or even J-20B.
So yet another step towards a formal unveiling or just an artwork? 🤔
(Image via @柳成梁/FB) pic.twitter.com/BiMRT5nkaB
— @Rupprecht_A (@RupprechtDeino) September 23, 2021
Nevertheless, the timing of the release of these images is somewhat interesting as the two-seat J-20 concept art was widely publicized at major events, including the recent Zhuhai airshow.
It is not yet known if the new J-20 variant has other major refinements to its core design. It is worth noting that the aircraft has evolved greatly over the last decade and the avionics of the aircraft have also progressively improved.
According to The War Zone, the advent of a two-seater would be a great time to introduce more modifications, some of which are thought to be on the way.