The Chinese J-20 stealth fighter prototype made its maiden flight from Chengdu’s Huang Tian Ba airport on January 11.
According to Richard Norton-Taylor of The Guardian, the first flight was confirmed by Chinese President Hu Jintao, a flight that has amazed experts with the speed in which China was able to develop and test such an aircraft.
The J-20 took off at 12:50 PM local time and completed an 18 minute flight according to an article by David Donald of Aviation International News Online. A Chinese J-10S aircraft accompanied the J-20 during its short flight. Ground photographers captured pictures of the first flight, detailing the large delta wing configuration and wide fuselage. According to Australian Aviation, the photographs show a seemingly radar-absorbent underside and a wide fuselage that may be indicative of a larger weapon payload with multiple weapon bays.
The first flight of the J-20 has brought out many questions regarding the development of these aircraft. Many are questioning the engine type, the number of prototypes, and if it is truly a stealth aircraft. Politically, there is speculation that there could have been a previous first flight conducted at a more secretive location and that this flight was to relay a message. The flight coincided with a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Beijing and prior to a trip by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Washington, D.C.