A small party of Chengdu J-20 stealth fighters entered into service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force in February, with recent design improvements to its engines expected to allow mass production of the plane to begin before the year is out.
The Aviationist has published a photo of an unidentified combat aircraft which looks strikingly similar to a J-20, claiming the photo was taken at the Savannah-Hilton Head Airport in the US state of Georgia.
The authenticity of the image has yet to be authenticated. US Air Force officials declined to speak to The Aviationist over the alleged image. Chinese authorities, as can be expected, have been similarly silent.
The person who provided the image, who claimed to have taken the photo from the airport’s parking lot on the morning of December 5, asked to remain anonymous. However, according to the authoritative military aviation website, cross-referencing the image with satellite photos of airports in the Georgia area seemed to confirm that the mystery ‘plane’ did appear at the airport in question, with profile images also appearing to match objects at the airport such as roof color and texture with those in the photo.
“Mystery fighter plane at the Savannah airport. Photos by theaviationist.com”
The Aviationist also scoured the internet for any similar images using image search applications, finding zero matches.
The website’s source said that by Thursday at noon, the mysterious aircraft, be it a mockup, movie prop, or Photoshopped image, was no longer visible at the location it was said to have been photographed.
One possibility, according to the resource, was that the ‘J-20’ was actually a US-built mockup or full-scale training model. “Differences between confirmed photos of J-20s and what appears in this photo do show small discrepancies in the shape of the canopy and in the afterburner nozzles on the two jet engines,” the website noted.
Another, more obscure possibility was that the ‘plane was just a prop for a Top Gun sequel,” although as The Aviationist pointed out, filming for that movie “is not happening anywhere near Georgia.”
The image prompted all hell to break loose on The Aviationist’s Twitter feed, with users coming up with a variety of explanations for what this J-20 lookalike was doing at an airport in the US. As always, some explanations were more serious than others.
Are you a pro forensic analyst? Asking because other analysts seem to agree it’s not doctored actually. They see a cropped and filtered only shot but I can’t say for sure.
— The Aviationist (@TheAviationist) 7 декабря 2018 г.
Not saying I think that is the aircraft, but timing is interesting.
— Michael Blackstock (@_luckygecko) 7 декабря 2018 г.
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