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China’s New Stealth Fighter: Built from Stolen F-22 and F-35 Technology?

China J-20 Stealth Fighter

There is an old saying, “good artists borrow, great artists steal” and while it isn’t actually a Chinese proverb, there is no denying that Beijing has taken it to heart especially where military hardware is involved. In the spring of 2019, the Pentagon accused China of using “cyber theft” and other methods to bolster its military.

China’s efforts to build a world class military certainly have not come just from domestic research and development (R&D) efforts, but rather from stealing from foreign powers. Even Russia has expressed frustration that China has so brazenly “borrowed” technological innovations as Beijing rolls out ever more advanced military hardware.

This is evident in the J-20 “Mighty Dragon” fighter, which was almost certainly based on stolen designs from the United State Air Force’s Lockheed Martin F-22 RaptorAs Business Insider had previously reported, the appearance and profile of the aircraft is far from the only similarities between the two fifth-generation fighters.

It would be a tremendous coincidence that the J-20’s development began in earnest only after the F-22 was unveiled, yet some of the technology on the Chinese fighter has been described as looking “awfully similar” to systems on the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. It would be suspicious enough if the Chinese fighter merely resembled the F-22, but the fact that its sensor system is so close in design to the Lockheed Martin Electro-Optical Targeting System found on the Lightning II surely suggests that espionage played some role in the Mighty Dragon’s development.

This isn’t just speculation either.

In fact, in 2007 Lockheed Martin had found that Chinese hackers had been stealing technical documents related to the F-35 program, while a similar theft occurred when hackers working for Beijing breached a network of an Australian F-35 sub-contractor, the Asia Times reported. Based on those breaches, it seems likely that the Chinese had acquired crucial information and technological data that has been utilized in production of the J-20.

Despite the fact that China gained valuable insight from the west, which certainly aided in the development of its advanced aircraft—it has also kept its cards close to the chest, revealing little details about the capability of the fifth-generation fighter. It is believed the J-20 is capable of reaching a maximum speed close to Mach 2 (1,535 mph) and has a ceiling of around 60,000 feet along with a range of about 700 miles—but other key information is sparse.

The Chinese jet is also believed to be able to carry at least four long-range air-to-air missiles in its large internal weapons bay, while it also has two lateral bays that can hold a single short-range missile. It has also been further reported that that the J-20 could have additional external hardpoints for an additional four missiles—so it seems it could be a Mighty Dragon indeed and a well-armed one at that.

At present the J-20 hasn’t been produced in large numbers, but China has been a nation that has shown that it has patience to build up slowly. It is clearly playing a long game as it works to reach its goal of having a world class military. Moreover, it also is evident that stolen technology is playing a role in those efforts.

And while the dragon may be a symbol of China, its actual Mighty Dragon appears to be born of western innovation!

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.



  1. G Newman

    September 26, 2021 at 11:11 am

    Yes the Chinese had the call in codes to Lockheed conference calls with partners BAE in UK and Northrop Grumman in Calif. They also hacked into BAE and stole CAD drawings. I was working at Lockheed at the time.

    Think about this folks when you buy anything “ Made in China” not to mention their mis handling and release of CoVID 19 on the world and denials and coverup!

  2. Pablo Ramos

    September 26, 2021 at 11:51 am

    [Read to the end]
    What we need to do, (and it’s probably already done) is to make it really hard for the Chinese to steal our technology.
    But once their hackers do steal it, because they are really good, they would be stealing the tings we put there for that purpose. So we will know what they have, and it will have hidden defects, or not work at all. And they will never know if they are really stealing anything worthwhile.

  3. d0x360

    September 26, 2021 at 12:03 pm

    Yes it’s definitely based on the f22 and 35. They stole massive amounts of data on the f35 so it’s mostly based on that.

    Of course that being said… They still did it wrong because it’s not stealth, not at all.

    An f22/35 will show up on radar but the reason they are “stealth” is because despite showing up as a radar blip like any other plane, unlike other planes that blip will vanish because they can’t be tracked and if you can’t track something you can’t shoot it down.

    The Chinese fighter not only shows up on radar but it’s also easily tracked and therefore can be shot down quite easily.

    It just proves that having information on how to build something is different from understanding what you’re building or how it works.

    The materials in the j20 aren’t stealth like they are in the American jets. The engines in the j20 are also an issue. First they aren’t reliable but more importantly for stealth they can’t hide any of their heat so they show up as giant balls of heat in the sky like a moving infrared beacon.

    Lastly the shape of the j20, although inspired by the American jets isn’t quite right and therefore also isn’t stealthy.

    So even if they fix the engine issues and the radar absorbing materials it still wouldn’t be “stealth” because of its shape.

    A cheap copy that doesn’t work and wouldn’t stand a chance against an f35 let alone an. F22. Hell an f15 would have no problem taking down anything in the Chinese air force.

  4. Michael Mcpherson

    September 26, 2021 at 2:41 pm

    Remember the Concordski? Maybe not, but Soviet Russia attempted to copy the Concorde and one of its defining moments was a fatal, spectacular crash at the Paris Airshow. End of story for the counterfeit idea.

    The CCP theives most likely have done the same thing with the F22. Of course it’s not impossible to steal technology, yet if it were so easy, there would be copies of another Lockheed wonder plane, the SR 71. Looking like is not being like IMO.

  5. Juju

    September 26, 2021 at 3:22 pm

    Fare Game Lockheed did get tech from Russia in their F-35B

  6. Mik06

    September 26, 2021 at 8:27 pm

    Stolen it was probably bought from the Communist Demoncraps how many are compromised with China Fiendstien had a spy on her staff. Access to all her info. Most Demoncraps should be charged with Treason including Biden and company.

  7. Manny

    September 27, 2021 at 10:23 am

    Duuuuuh!!! Quite obvious just by looking at it.. ?lol

  8. Sal

    September 27, 2021 at 3:28 pm

    Didn’t honeywell just get fined for sending drawings of American jets/parts to China and other countries?
    I really don’t like the idea of the Chinese even coming close to having similar tech.
    N yes, I always try to find made in US or some other country that’s not China.

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