A Fleet of Chinese J-20 Stealth Fighters Did a Massive 'Elephant Walk'

China J-20 Elephant Walk
June 26, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Asia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: DefenseChinaJ-20Elephant WalkF-22F-35StealthAir ForceMilitary

A Fleet of Chinese J-20 Stealth Fighters Did a Massive 'Elephant Walk'

China's official military news site recently showcased photos of the Chengdu J-20 "Mighty Dragon" in an "elephant walk" formation, a display often used to show force.


Summary and Key Points: China's official military news site recently showcased photos of the Chengdu J-20 "Mighty Dragon" in an "elephant walk" formation, a display often used to show force.



-The J-20, developed under Beijing's J-XX program in the 1990s, is China's first fifth-generation stealth fighter, entering service in 2017.

-It features a canard-delta configuration and advanced stealth capabilities, though its development reportedly involved stolen U.S. technology. Despite controversies, China is accelerating J-20 production to counter U.S. military presence in the Indo-Pacific.

China's J-20 Mighty Dragon Stealth Fighter Showcases Power in 'Elephant Walk

China Military, the official English-language news website of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) released a series of photos months back of the Chengdu J-20 "Mighty Dragon" (NATO reporting name "Fagin") on Friday. One image showed at least six of the twin-engine all-weather stealth fighter aircraft lined up on the runway.

"J-20 stealth fighter jets attached to an aviation brigade of the PLA Air Force participate in close formation taxiing known as an 'elephant walk' along the runway before takeoff during a flight training exercise in early February of 2024," the caption noted.

The United States Air Force has increasingly conducted the so-called "elephant walks" – the term for taxiing a multitude of aircraft before takeoff – in recent years. The close formation on the ground can result in minimum interval takeoff, but it is often carried out as a show of force. The elephant walk of the J-20 this year was likely carried out for the same reason.

Another photo shared featured the ground crew performing inspections on a J-20 fifth-generation stealth fighter jet at night prior to a flight training exercise, while multiple images captured the aircraft taking off or in flight.


Origins of the J-20

The Chengdu J-20 was the result of Beijing's J-XX program of the 1990s, which set out to develop an air superiority fighter with precision strike capability. The result was the world's third operational "fifth generation" fighter aircraft – after the United States Air Force's Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

The aircraft took its maiden flight in 2011.

Dubbed the Mighty Dragon was officially adopted and entered service with the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) in 2017. It is a sleek, modern aircraft that has been noted for its canard-delta configuration, blended fuselage with low radar cross-section, and large canted twin tails. It is equipped with two large internal weapon bays for long-range and air-to-air missiles. The J-20 further has two small sidebays that can hold short-range air-to-air missiles.

Built Using Stolen U.S. Tech?

The J-20 was a "great leap forward" for Chinese aerospace, yet it has been noted that Beijing's efforts to build such a world-class military may have not come solely from domestic research and development (R&D) efforts, but rather from stealing from foreign powers.

In recent years, even close partner Russia has expressed frustration that China has so brazenly "borrowed" technological innovations as Beijing rolls out ever more advanced military hardware.

However, it is hard to view the J-20 and not see the influence of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. Many aircraft are indeed developed based on known features of existing aircraft, but Beijing didn't simply observe the F-22 – it reportedly stole the technology and designs.


More Mighty Dragons Being Hatched

Despite its origins, Beijing has great faith in the capabilities of the J-20, its first fifth-generation stealth fighter, and it has gone to great lengths to see that production has sped up considerably to balance the deployment of U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors and F-35 Lightning IIs to the Indo-Pacific region.

The recent photos are simply Beijing's way of reminding the rest of the world of that fact.

Author Experience and Expertise: Peter Suciu

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu. You can email the author: [email protected].

All images are Creative Commons or Shutterstock. 

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