(Editor’s Note: This story was written by Eloise Lee and Robert Johnson and originally appeared in Business Insider)
New pictures of the China’s J-20 Mighty Dragon stealth fighter have surfaced and are making their way across military blogs.
This newest round of photos show the J-20 in the skies somewhere over mainland China.
The prototype is said to be using the Saturn AL-31 turbofan engine developed by the Russians for their Su-27 air superiority fighter.
Reuben Johnson at The Washington Times reports the Chinese may be as much as 10 years away from producing an original stealth engine to slip into the J-20.
In the meantime, they’ll have to take comfort in the fact that while the F-22 Raptor may be more agile and made entirely in the U.S., the Dragon carries more fuel and weapons than Lockheed’s fighter.
The J-20’s development is also moving along much faster than anyone had expected. Back in 2009, Gen. He Weirong, deputy commander of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force said in a TV interview that the J-20 wouldn’t be operational until 2017-2019. That estimate will likely be revised if work continues at the current pace.
Bill Sweetman at AviationWeek points out that for all its headway, no one is yet sure what the J-20 is for. He speculates that given the aircraft’s size and weapons bays, it may be used to “threaten intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets and tankers, by using stealth and speed to defeat their escorts.”
China developed their own WS-10G turbofan engines to power the Mighty Dragon.
The J-20 climbed the sky to demonstrate its maneuverability.
Its frontal fuselage has been designed like the F-22 Raptor to reduce radar detectability.
The J-20 has a large weapon bay with two smaller lateral bays for short and long range air-to-air missiles.
Expect more of China showing off its new military developments.