J-20 blues: no first flight today, apparently


Been glued to Twitter and Chinese web sites all afternoonfor news of the J-20′s first flight.

Now, however, I’m getting tweets that the VIPs who assembledfor a function at the Chengdufactory are heading back, with no sign of the new aircraft taking off. Notentirely surprised: the Chinese calendar today says it is a horrible day fornew ventures – although I’m not sure if celestial affairs apply to communists(or socialists who practice capitalism).  

In any case, the way the J-20 news emerged, through plane spotters’postings on the Internet, could suggest that China is trying to become more openabout things military.

China‘scurrent frontline fighter, the J-10, was a state secret until well after theaircraft was deployed. Chinaonly made the aircraft public in 2006, years after its first flight. If anyonecan keep a secret, it’s China.This week’s J-20-fest wasn’t an accident.

There are two possible reasons for the easy access the worldis getting to the J-20. Either A) the country is trying to be more open, or B)they are trying to send a message.

For my part I’m inclined to option B. Openness is not aboutshowing what kit you have, but telling people what your plans are, offeringreassurance about your intentions, and generally being a considerate neighbour.China‘s tough talk on theSouth China Sea last year, continued support of North Korea, and clashes with Japan over disputed islands allleave little room for comfort.

 Anyway, the debuts of the J-10 and J-20 (if such this newaircraft really is) offer a fascinating and somewhat perplexing contrast. Ilook forward to plenty of debate in the coming weeks with my colleagues atFlight and friends in the defence industry about why China chose to reveal the J-20 thisway – and, with luck, a first flight.

2 Responses to J-20 blues: no first flight today, apparently

  1. FF 7 January, 2011 at 9:30 pm #

    Google “Empty Fort Strategy”, which is about disconcerting the enemy with your “openness”.

    The Chinese Government isn’t usually bothered by what foreigners think. Their media efforts tend to be targeted at the domestic audience. I notice that the Chinese press isn’t discussing the J-20 very much – unlike other major technology programmes, such as new civil airliners and their Space programme.

  2. anonymous 8 January, 2011 at 1:53 am #

    Can anyone comment on the orientation of the vertical tail fins in the bottom pic ? Can you move these fins asymmetrically and/or through 180 degrees ?

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