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China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter: Just An F-35 Ripoff?

J-20 Stealth Fighter. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter, Built with Stolen US Technology? It is a widely known fact that China is engaging in an ambitious effort to close the gap with the United States’ much-vaunted F-22 and F-35 fighter jets. And to make that goal eventually become reality, China’s military appears to be heavily relying on the J-20—also nicknamed the “Mighty Dragon”—a heavy twin-engine, single-seat, low observability, multi-role jet.

There’s no question that the J-20 is a feared fighter in its own right, but what has continued to be a thorn on the side of the aircraft is that some experts say that it was developed with stolen technology from the United States.

Similar Sensor Systems

Back in 2019, Asia Times reported that “for instance, the sensor system on the J-20, which is visible on the fuselage in some high-resolution photos handed out by the Chinese military, looks ‘awfully similar’ to the Lockheed Martin Electro-Optical Targeting System on the front of the F-35 Lighting II.”

Then “in 2007, Lockheed Martin reportedly found Chinese hackers stealing technical documents related to the F-35 program, a serious online security breach revealed by Edward Snowden, a CIA operative-turned-traitor who fled to Hong Kong and then Russia in 2013. A similar theft occurred again in 2017, when Chinese hackers allegedly went after Australian F-35 defense contractors, getting even more info on the cutting-edge fighter,” it continued.

Furthermore, the sensor systems on the two countries’ fighters “share some similarities in shape and placement and differ substantially from those mounted on Russia’s Su-57, despite the fact that the J-20 is most likely powered by the same two AL-31F hypersonic engines that propel the Russian fighter. Also, parts of the design of the J-20 appear to mimic the F-22 and its stealthy curves, even though the J-20 lacks all-aspect stealth and may be tracked by some advanced radars,” the paper added.

In light of this, former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton claimed that China did indeed steal F-35 technology to develop its fifth-generation stealth fighter.

“It looks a lot like the F-35, that’s because it is the F-35. They just stole it,” he said.

‘Leapfrogging’ Development Phases

According to ABC News, it appears that China is still tapping into covert techniques to get its hands on next-generation military technology. The Pentagon, for years, has reported that the country has been “leapfrogging” the development phases of complex weapons systems.

“China uses various means to get these technologies including the use of influence operations against individuals, businesses, media organizations, academic institutions and other communities,” the news outlet writes.

A government report from 2019 acknowledged that China is utilizing an array of tools to gain access to military technologies—including “targeted foreign direct investment, cyber theft, and exploitation of private Chinese nationals access to these technologies, as well as harnessing its intelligence services, computer intrusions, and other illicit approaches.”

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Written By

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV.



  1. Simon Philips

    November 30, 2021 at 2:38 pm

    Why not?
    Everything else they do is!

  2. patrico

    November 30, 2021 at 2:56 pm

    Waouhhh ! L autre jour on a decouvert une vue de face exceptionnelle ! Ici une vue 3/4 côté G , qui me confirme sa puissance a tous les degrès d étages à venir. Soit en Bombardier long range & figther combat air air serré et surement attaque plongée air sol ! Son Aérodynamique et son shape parle d eux mêmes aux Ingénieurs ! A voir en démo dans le Sky ? Cela est une autre histoire. Merci Thank you merci a Tous !

  3. Yap Hong hor

    November 30, 2021 at 8:30 pm

    Making accusation without a shred of evidence is lying…You have a long nose without knowing!

  4. Daniel Blumel

    November 30, 2021 at 8:30 pm

    It’s unfair to call Snowden a traitor, you should retract that claim. In fact many would say just the opposite, he honored our Constitution when the government did not.

  5. Terry L Youmans sr

    December 1, 2021 at 9:55 am

    I’m sure old Bejing Biden supplied them with all the detail on how to build it. For a price

  6. Clifford Nelson

    December 2, 2021 at 12:41 am

    Calling it an F-35 ripoff when it looks totally different. You are really working hard to create more FAKE NEWS. Canards and a small tail. Looks nothing like an F-35. Normally that people try to make this claim because the planes look so much like the American but since you cannot make that claim you come up with something else. Ask any expert you find out that designs will look similar because they are trying to solve the same problem. What a joke.

  7. Ricky Maurice

    December 2, 2021 at 8:36 am

    Nothing of originality or of decent quality has come out of china since the discovery of gunpowder and that was how many centuries ago?

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