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J-20 takes flight
Further ahead indeed...

Numerous pictures of the Chinese Chengdu J-20 Black Eagle stealth fighter have surfaced online over the last few weeks. The aircraft has been seen conducting taxi tests at the southwest China Plant 132 facility. Plant 132 is the designation for Chengdu Aircraft reports Defense News.

After government officials initially dismissed the J-20, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates admitted recently that the Chinese "may be somewhat further along" than was previously believed. As Gates is in China for talks with the Chinese government a new report comes out that the J-20 made its first flight. The maiden flight had reportedly been set for January 7, but poor weather forced the flight to be cancelled. 

According to Chinese media, the chase aircraft on the test flight was a Chengdu J-10S Vigorous Dragon fighter. Defense News reports that the test flight will surprise some analysts who though the aircraft wasn’t ready for flight. The maiden flight of the J-20 lasted 18 minutes and was conducted on January 11.

The first flight of the aircraft may be used as a bargaining chip by Taiwan to urge the U.S. to release 66 newer F-16C/D fighters that were requested. The aircraft have been on hold since 2006 due to Chinese pressure on the U.S. to not offer more military aid to Taiwan.

Chinese Minister for National Defense Gen. Liang Guanglie said, "On that, China's position has been clear and consistent - we are against it." He also said, "Because United States arms sales to Taiwan seriously damaged China's core interests and we do not want to see that happen again, neither do we hope that the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan will again and further disrupt our bilateral and military-to-military relationship."

The F-16 aircraft that Taiwan wants aren’t likely to be approved by the U.S., but upgrades for the F16A/B fighters Taiwan may get a green light.

Updated 1/12/2011 @ 7:35am EST

Video has been posted of the J-20's first flight. The taxi/liftoff occurs around the 3:06 mark.

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RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By kextyn on 1/12/2011 4:57:16 AM , Rating: 2
It IS the F-22. At one point in time they had called it the F/A-22 but since 2005 it has been known as the F-22. The F-22 IS an air superiority fighter... when was the last time you saw one doing bombing/strafing runs in the Middle East? Go ahead and keep calling it the F/A-22 if you want but you're just going to look stupid.

By Amiga500 on 1/12/2011 7:11:58 AM , Rating: 3
I believe they actually ended up calling it the F-22A.

Yeah, sensible I know.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By Bigginz on 1/12/2011 11:48:02 AM , Rating: 2
Ok, you're right about the name changing back to F-22. I guess the "F/A" designation was too confusing. I often call the Hornet the F-18 instead of the F/A-18. However, the F-22 will be used for ground attack.

The F-15C remains the only fighter in the U.S. arsenal designed exclusively for air-to-air combat. The F-22 will be multi-role.

Air Force article from 2007 about the F-22 dropping small diameter bombs and JDAMs.

Pic of F-22 dropping JDAM.

RE: Please don't be so sure it is a fighter.
By Mudhen6 on 1/12/2011 11:45:53 PM , Rating: 2
You're right in that the F-22 is wired to carry bombs. You're wrong in thinking they actually will - nobody is going to risk a $182 million stealth fighter on a strafing run.

The whole "F/A-22" designation was an attempt by the USAF to buy more Raptors, by showing its critics that it's not just a Cold War relic dedicated to a role that no air force in the world is going to challenge.

For the record, USAF F-15Cs are capable of employing bombs as well - the ability to carry bombs is irrelevant. For a true measure of what the USAF is actually uses a particular fighter unit for, look at its training curriculum. Air-to-air combat is an extremely perishable skill, and air-to-air pilots tend to be trained only in air-to-air, all the time, in the USAF. For example, given two units of multi-role F-16Cs, it's more effective to dedicate training of one unit to air-to-air and one to air-to-ground rather than have both units do a mix a -air and -ground.

The training curriculum of F-15C and F-22 pilots reflect this mentality. These pilots spend 99% of their training for air-to-air.

By Calin on 1/13/2011 3:23:16 AM , Rating: 2
They might use insertion teams to "laser paint" high priority targets (like active SAM sites) and F-22A to launch laser guided bombs from an altitude of 20 km. Beats calling a real bomber (B-52, B-2) 20 hours in advance for the strike, and make him hover for hours until the target is ready.
And for effective "strafing runs" you need very slow speed and very good manoeuvrability - and F-22A has only manoeuvrability, not slow speed.

By Bigginz on 1/13/2011 11:30:43 AM , Rating: 2
Good to know the F-22 will focus on air-to-air combat. Maybe 1 day out of the year they will drop some bombs. Or get some practice on the simulator.

I think the only planes that do strafing runs are the A-10 and AC-130. On any other plane it's a last resort. The pilot would have to be desperate. Going low, slow and in a straight line is a great way to get shot down.

Also, I'm wondering what the Air Force will do without a medium range tactical bomber. The F-15E has a ferry range of 2,400 miles. F-22 = 2,000 miles. F-35 = 1,380 miles. I guess they'll have to rely on midair refueling. If it's in hostile territory they'll have to use cruise missiles or long range UAV's.

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