The most significant change in the new prototype is the reshaped cockpit canopy, which provides the pilot with greater visibility. The lack of othergreat design changes suggest that “2017” is very close to the final J-20 production configuration. Since “2017” is likely the last J-20 prototype, low rate initial production (LRIP) of the J-20 is likely to being next year. Assuming serial production, the first Chinese squadron of J-20s will start flying in 2017, about six years after the J-20’s first flight in January 2011.
China will be the second country in the world, after the USA, to field an operational stealth fighter force in the “fifth generation” category. While the initial batch of J-20s may not be as fast as the F-22 (but will be fast as the F-35), they will still possess stealthy features, advanced radars, jammers, infrared sensors and long range missiles, providing new competition in the arms race to dominate the skies.
Black Dragons – The first squadrons of LRIP J-20 stealth fighters will have less powerful engines, but their stealth, radars and avionics would still put them ahead of any non fifth generation fighter in Asia, or the world.