CHINA / MILITARY
Twin-seat J-20 stealth fighter jet spotted, extra pilot ‘to give advantage’
Published: Oct 28, 2021 08:19 PM
The twin-seat variation of the J-20 fighter jet, depicted by computer-generated imagery, is seen in a video released by AVIC celebrating the 10th anniversary of the aircraft's maiden flight in 2021. Photo: Screenshot from the AVIC video

The twin-seat variation of the J-20 fighter jet, depicted by computer-generated imagery, is seen in a video released by AVIC celebrating the 10th anniversary of the aircraft's maiden flight in 2021. Photo: Screenshot from the AVIC video


Photos and videos that give the world the first glimpse of the long-rumored twin-seat variant of China's J-20 stealth fighter jet circulated on social media this week, leading foreign media outlets to say that the aircraft is the world's first stealth fighter jet with two seats.

An extra seat could allow the second pilot to deal with complex tasks that can't be done by one person alone, like electronic warfare and the control of accompanying drones, and this will give China an advantage in the air, analysts said.

The unverified and undated photos appear to show a J-20 in yellow primer paint with a two-seat tandem cockpit and an elongated canopy to enclose it, at the flight test airfield of the Chengdu Aerospace Corp under the state-owned Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC), US-based news website thedrive.com said in a report on Tuesday. 

The report was updated on Wednesday with an additional photo and a short video that shows the aircraft taxiing near a runway.

It seems that the aircraft has yet to make its maiden flight, US media outlet the Military Watch Magazine said on Tuesday.

Both reports pointed out that the twin-seat variant of the J-20, the designation of which has not yet been confirmed, will be the first twin-seat stealth fighter jet in the world, and not even the US has an equivalent.

The existence of the twin-seater J-20 has been rumored for a long time.

In a promotional video in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the original J-20's maiden flight released by AVIC in January, four twin-seat J-20 variations were seen flying in formation, as depicted by computer-generated imagery.

"Assuming we do have a twin-seat version of the J-20, it would not be a trainer aircraft, because it would be developed for the enhancement of the aircraft," said Yang Wei, chief designer of the J-20, at a press conference at Airshow China 2021 in late September when being asked about the possible twin-seat jet.

Military experts and analysts reached by the Global Times said that the J-20 excels at information gathering, processing and distributing, and many of its potential functions could only be taken advantage of when a second pilot is on board.

A second pilot could make more use of vast amounts of data than only one pilot, and make the twin-seat J-20 an aerial command center, and control a swarm of loyal wingman-style drones, analysts said.

Another possibility is that the second pilot could run electronic warfare or tactical bombing tasks, which could also be overwhelming for just one pilot, experts added.

When added to the J-20's stealth capability, this will give China significant advantages in the air, they said.


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