China is experiencing rapid progress in all fields during last few decades and their military depends more and more on their own resources. Amongst the other things, they became rather advanced in airplane construction and their first 5th generation fighter J-20 is very close to becoming operational. That will make them the third country in the world that possess the stealth 5th generation fighter and there are some rumours that they have already defined and started developing the first 6th generation fighter in the world.
The development of Chengdu J-20 has begun in late 1990’s through the J-XX project. They were experiencing some difficulties in constructing the airframe but as they acquired the shot down F-117A from Serbia (Yugoslavia) in 1999 the entire program started accelerating and the first J-20 prototype was first seen in December 2010. Until the end of the 2013 at least 3 prototypes were built and they all have started their test flights. As the time passes, some new features are added to the later prototypes and currently it looks very close to the final design. The fact that a lot of equipment was previously tested on their operational J-10B fighters increased the speed of the entire process and knowing the Chinese economy, it would be no wonder if this plane is fully operational in matter of only a few years.
Visually, the J-20 has some similarities with the US built F-35 and F-22 but mainly; it is a completely different aircraft. It has a delta wing with canards and although many experts thought that canards are not suitable for the stealth fighters, the Chinese proved them wrong. In the final aftermath, they got a stealth airplane that excels in agility and the ability to engage 4th generation fighters in close combat. There are some doubts about this issue since it requires the engines that will provide enough thrust to make it maneuverable and the Chinese still don’t have the aircraft engines that could meet those requirements. Nevertheless, even if underpowered, J-20 would still be a great airplane for interceptor and fighter bomber role.
Currently they are using two WS-10 engines (derived from the Russian AL-31) but there are some speculations that the final version will use the originally Chinese made WS-15 which is under development since 1990’s.
The avionics are still a bit of a mystery but it is clear that the China has managed to develop all the systems necessary on their own as the prototypes are quite stable in flight and there was no accidents whatsoever thus far.
Concerning the armament, it is believed that its main role will be to acquire dominance in the air so main weapons will consist of medium and short range AA missiles hidden in internal bays. The Chinese already have AESA radar developed for the J-20 and the latter two prototypes have the different nose because it is already integrated in it.
All in all this means that the final solution for this plane is very near and that it will most probably enter service when predicted (2017-2019). This will definitely tip the scale to the Chinese side in the Pacific and the answer to this is yet to be seen.