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New CAC J-20 potentially powered by WS-15 engines

A new variant of the CAC J-20 fifth-generation fighter includes design changes to improve low-observable characteristics and aerodynamics. This variant appears to have also been equipped with the new WS-15 powerplant. (Janes)

China appears to have flown a new variant of its Chengdu Aircraft Industries (Group) Company (CAC) J-20 fifth-generation stealth fighter with two new Shenyang WS-15 turbofan engines for the first time.

Information on Chinese social media suggest that this milestone event took place on 28 June. Janes assessed imagery of the flight and has geolocated the site of the flight to the CAC company airfield, Chengdu-Huangtianba. However, low quality of the images make it difficult to independently verify the installation of the WS-15 engine with the aircraft.

The shape of the engine nozzles is unclear.Despite the low quality of the imagery, the engines appear to lack the thrust vectoring control (TVC) paddles associated with the 166 kN-class WS-15 Emei engine.

An image of the 28 June event shows CAC officials with a banner that reads ‘-15', indicating an event linked to the installation of the engine with the J-20. Pictures of the aircraft also reveal visual changes to the airframe. The cockpit canopy has been designed to improve the aircraft's stealth characteristics. The canopy is flatter on the top and merges with a more pronounced hump behind the cockpit area leading to the main body of the airframe.

This change was initially revealed in December 2022. It is almost certainly intended to improve the aircraft's low-observable qualities and potentially aerodynamics. It is unclear what the designation of this new variant of the aircraft is.

According to Janes

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