Photos and videos that give the world the first glimpse of the long-rumored twin-seat variant of China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet circulated on social media this week, leading foreign media outlets to say that the aircraft is the world’s first stealth fighter jet with two seats.
Often referred to as the J-20B, J-20AS, or J-20S the new China’s J-20 variant would give China something the United States and other competitors do not have. With all the previous 5th generation aircraft existing only in the single-seat version, the new two-seater J-20 variant is going to give China several interesting opportunities.
The unverified and undated photos appear to show a J-20 in yellow primer paint with a two-seat tandem cockpit and an elongated canopy to enclose it, at the flight test airfield of the Chengdu Aerospace Corp under the state-owned Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC),
The existence of the twin-seater J-20 has been rumored for a long time. On July 15, 2020, we reported that China’s J-20B Stealth Fighter Jet Reportedly Goes Into Mass Production After Thrust Upgrade
“Assuming we do have a twin-seat version of the J-20, it would not be a trainer aircraft, because it would be developed for the enhancement of the aircraft,” said Yang Wei, chief designer of the J-20, at a press conference at Airshow China 2021 in late September when being asked about the possible twin-seat jet.
Military experts and analysts said that the J-20 excels at information gathering, processing, and distributing, and many of its potential functions could only be taken advantage of when a second pilot is on board.
A second pilot could make more use of vast amounts of data than only one pilot, and make the twin-seat J-20 an aerial command center, and control a swarm of loyal wingman-style drones, analysts said.
Another possibility is that the second pilot could run electronic warfare or tactical bombing tasks, which could also be overwhelming for just one pilot, experts added.
When added to the J-20’s stealth capability, this will give China significant advantages in the air, they said.
Anyway, besides the fact that it is the world’s first two-seater stealth fighter, we know nothing about the J-20 but we’ll keep a close eye on its development.