First Flight for Chinese Stealth

The J-20—China’s stealth aircraft—has made its first flight, as videos and still images appearing Tuesday on the Internet show the fighter taking off and landing at Chengdu’s field in Sichuan province. News of the flight coincided with the second day of Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ official China visit. Still photos of the J-20’s underside reveal that its wing planform is similar to that of the F-22, although set back on the fuselage behind rather large canards. Those same photos are not of sufficient quality to deduce the placement or size of weapon bays. Testing of control surfaces before the flight clearly showed the exhausts moving asymmetrically in the pitch axis, indicating that the J-20 has some degree of thrust vectoring. The exhausts appear to have a sawtooth edge, suggesting that some design consideration has been given to stealth in the rear quarter.