A two-seat version of China’s first stealthy combat aircraft, the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG) J-20, may be in development to fulfil roles as a tactical bomber, electronic warfare (EW), or carrier strike aircraft, according to a report published in the state-owned Global Times newspaper on 16 January.
The concept of a two-seat variant of the J-20 is not new and computer-generated images (CGIs) of such an aircraft have circulated on the Internet for some time.
However, the likelihood that such a variant will be produced has increased following state broadcaster China Central Television’s (CCTV’s) recent release of a TV report showing a CGI of a two-seat J-20. The 16 January report not only highlighted the advantages of having two aircrew in a complex tactical environment, but also asked whether China would be the first country to introduce a two-seat stealth combat aircraft.
A day earlier the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) published its China Military Power report, in which its assessment was that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) “is developing new medium- and long-range stealth bombers”.
The long-range stealth bomber will be the H-20, which the PLAAF confirmed was in development in 2016. No new programme for a medium-range stealth bomber has been identified in open sources, so development of the J-20 for such a role may reflect the DIA’s assessment.
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