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Image emerges of CAIG's two-seat J-20 prototype in flight

An image has emerged on Chinese social media platforms showing that a two-seat prototype of the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG) J-20A fifth-generation multirole fighter aircraft has conducted what appears to have been its maiden flight.

Released on 5 November via Weibo, the image shows the prototype, which was painted in yellow primer, taking off from CAIG's airfield, next to the production facility in Chengdu-Huangtianba. It is unclear when the image was taken but it comes after photographs emerged on 28 October showing the prototype conducting taxiing trials at the same airfield.

As Janes reported, the prototype features an elongated canopy covering the tandem cockpit. However, it has not been fitted with the grey painted nose radome, seen on the single-seat variant, suggesting that the radar has not yet been installed on this aircraft.

Should China's People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) decide to induct this variant, the service would become the first air arm in the world to field a two-seat fifth-generation aircraft.

It is unclear how the PLAAF will officially designate this variant, which is being commonly referred to as the J-20B, J-20AS, or J-20S. The reason for the many potential names is that the aircraft's designation will likely depend on its intended role in the force.

For instance, the PLAAF usually adds the letter ‘S' when naming trainer variants. However, if the new variant is meant for a combat role, then the service replaces the last letter of the previous variant with the following one in the alphabet. This is why in the case of the single-seat J-20A fighter, a new two-seat fighter variant could be known as the J-20B.

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