China’s new stealth fighter?

Pictures alleging to be of a new Chinese fighter jet hit a few aviation forums this Monday. Is this plane China’s new fifth-generation stealth fighter? As the US and its allies develop the F35 platform, how far along has China gotten developing this plane dubbed the J-20?

The impression here is of a big, long aircraft, 70+ feet from nose to tail, which would make sense for a number of reasons. Rob Hewson at Jane’s has reported that Russia has supplied 32,000-pound thrust 117S engines for the J-20, which would be adequate for an aircraft in the 80,000 pound class – with perhaps lower supercruise performance and agility than an F-22, but with larger weapon bays and more fuel.

But ask yourself: why would China need or want a short-range stealth aircraft? Any targets with defenses that call for that capability are a long way from the mainland. Also, the bigger that the aircraft is, the more likely it is that it is a bomber as much as, if not more than, a fighter.