Days after grainy images circulated on social media, a video taken near Chengdu’s facilities showed the two-seat J-20 fighter for the first time.
Officially, it is the first stealth fighter to feature a two-seat variant. Not even the US, forerunner of low-signature radar aircraft, had a model of this type.
Russia has also hinted that the Su-57 will gain a version with an extra occupant but for now a prototype seems far from becoming a reality.
China, on the other hand, had been claiming to introduce the version for some time and chose its huge fighter to do so. The variant still has no official designation, although some outlets in the country have the so-called J-20S.
First clear video of the J-20 twin-seater J-20B/J-20S— 彩云香江 (@louischeung_hk) October 27, 2021
(Video from wb/飞扬军事铁背心） pic.twitter.com/xzMmff6cNR
It remains to be seen how the PLAAF (People’s Liberation Army Air Force) will use the new supersonic stealth jet. One of the possibilities is to carry out training flights instead of simulator training, as is the case with the US F-22 and F-35 fighters.
But it’s on special missions that the two-seat J-20 can have an extra edge. Whether as an operator of systems and sensors or controlling an unmanned “loyal wingman” aircraft, the second occupant will have a very important role in the future theater of war.
Certainly, Western observers may see Chinese pioneering as more of a marketing stunt than something really necessary. Or proof of the lack of advanced artificial intelligence systems capable of reducing the pilot’s load. Anyway, the Chinese got there first and that hurts.