US Air Force reveals it has a replica of a Chinese stealth fighter

US Air Force reveals it has a replica of a Chinese stealth fighter

December 10, 2018

US Marines Corps reveals it owns a full scale replica of cutting edge Chinese stealth fighter after photo of it at Georgia airbase emerges and sparks rumors of a pilot defection – or is it just a ‘Top Gun 2’ prop?

  • J-20 Mighty Dragon jet was seen at Savannah-Hilton Head Airport, in Georgia
  • The stealth fighter has now been confirmed as a scale replica used for training
  • Speculation over aircraft included it being a film prop for new Top Gun movie 

The US Marine Corps has confirmed that a mysterious jet spotted at one of its airbases is a replica of a cutting edge Chinese stealth fighter.   

The aircraft, that is virtually identical to the Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon, was pictured at Savannah-Hilton Head Airport, Georgia, last Wednesday.

The photograph was shared online sparking speculation that a Chinese pilot had defected with the jet or that it was a prop for the latest Top Gun movie.  

Now, however, the United States Marine Corps has told the Aviationist that it is a full scale mock used for training.   

The full scale replica jet (pictured) was spotted at Savannah-Hilton Head Airport last week

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Col. Emmanuel Haldopoulos, Commander of the Savannah Air Dominance Center, told the website: ‘It is a full scale replica and remained at the Air Dominance Center for a short period during the week of 4-6 Dec. 

‘The USMC is funding and directing the training objectives of this device.’ 

Dozens of people on Twitter replied to the Aviationist’s tweet of the plane and suggested reasons for it being at the airport.


China’s new war plane made its first flyby in November 2016.

The fighter jet is swift, stealthy, and armed with long-range missiles.

Its design is similar to US fighter jets, stoking concerns that the Chinese military used ‘stolen’ plans obtained by hackers to develop the stealth plane and further drive its military ambitions.

Experts have said that the plane represents a leap forward in China’s ability to project power in Asia, and will compete with US military technology.

China is set to overtake the US as the world’s top aviation market in the next decade.

China currently has around 20 J-20 jets but they have older Russian Salyut AL-31FN or WS-10B engines.

Some suggested it could be linked to a Viktor Belenko or Kenneth Rowe style defection. 

Viktor Belenko, a former Soviet pilot, defected in 1976 while flying his MiG-25 ‘Foxbat’ jet fighter and landed in Hakodate, Japan.

Kenneth H. Rowe, a Korean American engineer and aviator, defected to south Korea in 1953 in a MiG aircraft and was given political asylum by the US. 

One person asked if the jet spotted in Georgia could be ‘another adversary for Top Gun 2?’ and another agreed suggesting it could be ‘Maverick’s new ride.’

However most of the filming for Tom Cruise’s sequel so far has been filmed in Nevada and California.

In September Cruise was spotted in a fighter jet with an F-18 pilot, acting as his body double, from an airbase in northern California. 

The two were snapped at an airbase after making an unscheduled landing when the jet saw a ‘flap caution’ mid-air, reports the Express. 

In October the 56-year-old movie star was pictured filming scenes on a a limited edition Kawasaki Ninja H2 Carbon motorcycle in San Diego, California. 

It’s a 1000cc four-cylinder supercharged superbike with 200bhp and a top speed of 209mph, making it one of the fastest road legal bikes on the planet.

The training jet was in Georgia for a few days and is a replica of a Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon (pictured)

An expert analysed the photograph and pointed out differences between the real and model jets including different landing gear and the wrong jet nozzles (pictured is the replica)

Others questioned whether the stealth jet was a fake from the beginning and tweeted ‘looks like a mock up, not the real thing.’   

The Aviationist said they were sent the photograph on Wednesday December 5 and were told it was taken from a public parking area.

They checked satellite images and matched the design of the airport to the colour of the roof shown in the background of the picture.

Training facility The Air Dominance Center is based at the Georgia Airport (pictured) where the jet was spotted

However while trying to get to the bottom of the unusual spot, Chinese Defense expert Andreas Rupprecht, noticed ‘that the exhaust nozzles looked inaccurate and the landing gear was different from a real Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon.’

The J-20, which is also called the Mighty Dragon, was first shown to the public in 2016 at the Zhuhai Air Show. 

At the time there were claims that it had been built in part from plans of U.S. warplanes, particularly the F-22 Raptor, obtained by Chinese hackers jailed in the same year.


Top speed: 1,498 mph

Range: 1,839 mi

Length: 62′

Wingspan: 44′ 0″

Weight: 43,430 lbs

Engine type: Pratt & Whitney F119

Cost: $130m

Manufacturers: Boeing Defense, Space & Security, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics


Top speed: 1,305 mph

Range: 2,113 mi

Length: 67′

Wingspan: 42′ 0″

Weight: 43,000 lbs

Engine Type: Xian WS-15 turbofan engines

Cost: $110m

Manufacturer: Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group

Beijing firmly denied the theory as it insists that J-20 had been developed and built solely with the Chinese technology.

In November two J-20 fighter jets opened their cargo bay doors and revealed four missiles in its fuselage and one on either side of the aircraft during the grand finale of the Zhuhai Air Show. 

Top Chinese officials, according to the Global Times, said the demonstration displayed the J-20’s superiority to the top US fighter jets, the F-22 and F-35

According to footage released by China Central Television Station, the J-20 is equipped with four PL-15 mid-range air-to-air missiles and one PL-10 short-range ‘combat’ missile on either side.

Chinese news site Sohu previously claimed PL-15 was a wing-less missile and 5.7 metres (18.7 feet) long. It was said to boast an impressive range of 400 kilometres (249 miles) and could help PL-15 out-perform F-22.  

When the aircraft was shown to the public at an air show in China, there were claims to suggest that it had been built in part from plans of US war planes (file photo)

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