China’s Murky, Stealthy Twins: The second new Chinese fighter—rumored to be the stealthy J-31—which appeared recently in Internet photos appears to be designed for a different mission than China’s stealthy J-20 unveiled last year, said Phillip Saunders, Chinese military expert at National Defense University. Given its large size, analysts believe the J-20 may be built for mission such as “long range-strike … stealthy attacks against AWACS,” or another mission requiring large fuel reserves, Saunders said at AFA’s Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 17. “There’s follow-up work to design another stealth fighter. I think what little we’ve seen of the J-31 suggests it’s a smaller aircraft, maybe more suited for different missions,” he added. Analysts are still conflicted over whether the J-20’s size is due to its specialized mission, or merely the limits of Chinese design. “It is a big plane—a bigger plane than the F-22,” explained Saunders. Generally, for stealth purposes “the smaller you are—the better you are in terms of radar cross-section,” he mused.
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