Chengdu (AVIC) J-20 (Black Eagle) Multirole 5th Generation Fighter Aircraft
The Chengdu J-20 air superiority fighter is expected to reach operational status in 2018 with the Chinese Air Force.
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The Chinese Chengdu J-20 "Black Eagle" is a 5th Generation fighter design exhibiting stealth characteristics not unlike the American Lockheed F-22 Raptor. The Chinese military industry has long held a reliance on outside help, particularly from the Soviets/Russians, to make her a force to be reckoned with in the modern world. As such, most of their Cold War-era inventory was made up largely of Soviet fighter and bomber designs. While this was something of an effective measure for the time, is also doubled as a vital learning experience for Chinese engineers who worked on reengineering various weapon systems and airframes - even some that were illegally copied to begin with. This ended up producing some adequate indigenous offerings but it has not been until recently that the Chinese military began producing indigenous military aircraft of note. Backed by a large influx of cash from its burgeoning economy, China has begun a process of modernization that include the development of a 5th Generation stealth-minded fighter. The Chengdu and Shenyang aviation firms - both having garnered decades of experience with Soviet/Russian designs - are two of the top performers for the Chinese military for aircraft concerns. That, along with suspected Chinese cyberespionage of Western information, are thought to be the driving force for the development of the new J-20.
In fact, according to a BBC report dated January 24th, 2011, Balkan military sources state that the technology behind the new J-20 may have actually been based on the downed Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk "stealth fighter" lost to a Serbian surface-to-air missile during the Bosnian-Kosovo air war in 1999. The incident resulted the first and only time that an F-117 was downed by enemy fire in a hostile environment. The thinking is that some of the debris may have fallen into the hands of Chinese operatives active in the country. The Chinese and Serbian governments thought to have maintained a close relationship at the time of the war so the exchange of technologies seems plausible. The idea of the modernization-crazy Chinese taking the F-117 debris, studying them and reverse-engineering them to understand the technology and concepts is a viable initial source for the technology utilized in the new J-20 platform. Portions of the same F-117 - the left wing assembly, ejection seat used by the pilot to escape, the onboard radio system and the canopy were claimed by the Belgrade Aviation Museum and went on display. The whereabouts of the other surviving portions of the aircraft went unknown, presumably collected by a handful of farmers in the area and subsequently sold to "interested" parties like the Chinese. Of course all of this remains speculation but it does play well into the scenario of what the appearance of the J-20 means today. One can assume it is based on the 1970s technology utilized to jumpstart the American stealth program mixed in with modern engineering learned by Chinese engineers to the procurement across decades of Russian technology.