Is China Really Building a Jump Jet?

Here's some interesting food for thought based on Chinese-focused blogosphere chatter about the existence of the J-18 vertical/short take-off and landing fighter that's rumored to have entered flight testing:

First came rumors that China is working on an F-35B Joint Strike Fighter style V/STOL jet.

Next, China-oriented blogs stated that a V/STOL airplane flew. However, some reports dropped any reference to the F-35 and said the jet was similar to Russia's 60,000-plus pound (fully loaded) Su-33 carrier-borne fighter. That's a big jet that uses a ski jump to take off conventionally from the same type of carrier China is soon to field.  The thing is, the Su-33 is a huge fighter and converting it into a V/STOL jet would be pretty darn tough. This makes it fairly easy to cast doubt on the reports of a Chinese V/STOL.

However, other reports simply suggest that the J-18 has folding wings similar to those found on the J-15, China's knockoff of the Su-33. They don't suggest the J-18 is similar in any other way to the conventional take-off fighter. That makes sense given that carrier-based jets almost always feature folding wings. Maybe we're on to something.

Maybe not, Chinese aviation officials have come out and denied the existence of a V/STOL  fighter program.

So, at the end of the day, if China is working on a V/STOL fighter the Beijing is being pretty quiet about it. But who knows. Maybe the PLAN or the PLAAF want a stealthy, JSF type strike-fighter to complement the J-20, which appears to be a high speed interceptor (or possibly a carrier-killer) more than an offensive system.

Or maybe all the chatter is simply combining snippets of truth to form a mythical composite aircraft that has the features of a variety of jets from an F-35-like vertical take-off capability, J-20 like stealth and the shape and naval mission of the J-15.

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