- By John Reed
John Reed is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He comes to FP after editing Military.com’s publication Defense Tech and working as the associate editor of DoDBuzz. Between 2007 and 2010, he covered major trends in military aviation and the defense industry around the world for Defense News and Inside the Air Force. Before moving to Washington in August 2007, Reed worked in corporate sales and business development for a Swedish IT firm, The Meltwater Group in Mountain View CA, and Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter at the Tracy Press and the Scotts Valley Press-Banner newspapers in California. His first story as a professional reporter involved chasing escaped emus around California’s central valley with Mexican cowboys armed with lassos and local police armed with shotguns. Luckily for the giant birds, the cowboys caught them first and the emus were ok. A New England native, Reed graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a dual degree in international affairs and history.
Another close-up picture (above) has emerged via the Alert5 Internet forum showing what might be China’s second stealth fighter. Pictures of the mystery plane first appeared about a month ago, depicting a tarpaulin-covered jet sitting on the back of a flatbed truck, rumored to be en-route to Shenyang, home of the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation. While nothing official has been said about the plane, some are guessing that it may be a full-scale mock up or prototype of the F-60 — Shenyang’s rival to Chengdu Aircraft Corporation’s famous J-20 stealth fighter.
The mystery jet appears to be smaller than the J-20, perhaps better suited for dog-fighting or as a multirole air-to-air and air-to-ground jet akin to the U.S.-made F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. At first glance, it was thought to simply be a Hongdu L-15 trainer. However, the new image and last month’s photos show a silhouette that, on close inspection, looks like a real-life version of this small model, dubbed the F-60, which Shenyang has displayed at trade events. (The F-60 looks shockingly like a smaller, less stealthy version of Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor. Note the similarities in the two jets’ cockpits in these pictures.) Aircraft companies routinely show off models of concept designs that never make it off the design table, so the emergence of a full-size version of the F-60 (if that’s what the jet under the tarp is) would be a fairly big deal.
Given its large size, the J-20 appears to be a high-speed weapons truck, designed either to intercept enemy fighters and bombers and shoot them down with long-range missiles — similar to the Soviet Union’s famous MiG-25 Foxbat interceptor — or to use its relative stealth technology to get close to enemy ground and sea targets before attacking them with cruise missiles and bombs and then using its large engines to speed away. It would make sense that China wants to develop a smaller, more agile fighter that could be cheaper to produce than the J-20 and could incorporate the lessons learned in developing the giant stealth jet. It’s also interesting to note that if this is a stealth fighter, it would be the second one to emerge from China in less than two years.