For the first time ever, China has shown off its new J-20 stealth fighter to the media at a public air show.
The appearance of the craft over the weekend at the country’s major Zhuhai air show shows that China is now willing to reveal its designs to the wider world.
Two J-20 aircraft performed a flyover of a crowd of journalists, spectators and foreign military delegations.
Previously the J-20 had only been photographed at a distance by Chinese aviation enthusiast bloggers.
The J-20 is China’s first so-called ‘Fifth Generation’ jet fighter, designed to make heavy use of stealth technology.
In terms of capabilities, analysts believe it to be similar to the F-22 Raptor fielded by the US Air Force, however still technologically inferior to the troubled and hugely costly F-35 Lightning II program.
The aircraft itself was developed and built by Chengdu Aircraft Industries Group, a subsidiary of Aviation Industry Corporation of China.
The J-20 stealth fighter program has been underway since at least the 1990’s, however the first prototype aircraft were not tested until 2011.
China reportedly plans to begin the military deployment of the J-20 jets in 2018, but there is currently no information on how many of these craft will be eventually fielded by its air force.
Moreover, there also is no public information on the total expenditure involved in the J-20 program and how it compares to other high-cost ‘Fifth Generation’ fighter programs.
Nonetheless, the fact that China decided to unveil the aircraft during a military air show where foreign delegations were present, leads to the assumption that they are also looking for foreign buyers for the aircraft, as a method of offsetting the development costs.
Chinese military aviation at Zhuhai
Beyond the J-20, China also showed off a number of other new aircraft for the first time at the Zhuhai air show.
These included the Y-20, China’s first ever military transport aircraft, and the AG-600 seaplane.
Together these aircraft reveal the rapid progress being made by China’s aviation industry across of number of different designs and use cases.