Four in a Row: China’s Stealth Fighter Fleet Grows Again

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Fighter on a Truck: Wrapped in a tarp, the second J-31 prototype leaves Shenyang, on an escorted convoy for specialized testing (since the wings are completely integrated into the fuselage, it’s too wide to be shipped by train or air). | =GT at China Defense Forum

 

In July 2016, the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation rolled out two more low rate initial production (LRIP) J-20 stealth fighters. This brings to a total of four J-20 fighters built for service into the Chinese air force, as opposed to the original eight J-20 prototypes, which are still undergoing a rigorous flight testing regimen. At this rate of production, China may have 12 production J-20 ready to hand off to a PLAAF squadron for operational and flight familiarization, with an initial operating capability (IOC — meaning those fighters can conduct combat operations) in 2017-2018. Continue reading

New US Military Space Plane Aims for 2017 Liftoff

The United States military is making progress toward developing a new unmanned space plane, which it aims to begin flight-testing in 2017.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) plans to award the first design contracts for the vehicle project — known as Experimental Spaceplane, or XS-1— in May or thereabouts, officials said. Current schedules call for the vessel to get off the ground for the first time in late 2017 and make an orbital test flight the following year.

DARPA has high expectations for the XS-1 program, which it hopes can eventually launch 3,000- to 5,000-lb (1,361 to 2,268 kilograms) payloads to orbit for less than $5 million per flight — and to do it at least 10 times per year. Continue reading