Chinese J-21 Emerges! (well, something emerges – sort of)

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The China Defense Blog and other Chinese defence sites haverevealed photos of a mysterious airframe travelling aboard the back of a truck,apparently from the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation to Xian Aircraft Company.

This is no J-20 moment: there has yet to be a magicalappearance on a runway, followed by obsessive tweeting and blogging about afirst flight.

In the photos this new fighter airframe is draped by a camouflagecovering and is riding unglamorously along a highway. It bears a morbid resemblanceto those photos of retired RAAF F-111′s being towed to museums or landfills. Either the tailhas yet to be mounted or was remove to help the rig pass under bridges. In anycase this isn’t a real aircraft just yet, just a large portion of an aircraftto be.

Some bloggers have speculated that this new type is a supplementto the heavy weight, MiG-31-class Chengdu J-20, which continues flight tests atChengdu. One blogger even said it could be an export type to compete with theF-35. This export idea is a bit farfetched: China (with Pakistan) needs to getJF-17 sales off the ground before even pondering something as ambitious as anF-35 alternative.

So what is it? Judging from the photos, the type will havetwo engines. Unlike the J-20, there does not seem to be an obvious place forcanards. I am intrigued by the protrusion just above the intake. This is too faralong the fuselage for the cockpit. Dare I suggest that this is a lift fandoor, similar to that found on the F-35B? That would be cool.

Flightglobal will be at Zhuhai in force this November. Withluck we will learn more there – or perhaps this aircraft will one day make aJ-20 style appearance, surprising us all. 

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