Last Thursday, the Aviationist tweeted a photo of a mysterious combat aircraft which resembled a fifth-generation Chinese fighter jet, claiming the photo was taken at the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, a commercial and military-use airport in Savannah, Georgia, on Wednesday, December 05.
For several days, wild theories circulated social media channels, of why a Chinese stealth jet was parked on the tarmac of a Georgian military base.
It turns out the aircraft is real, but only a mock-up for use by the US Marine Corps (USMC),
“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 […] Col. Emmanuel Haldopoulos, Commander of the Savannah Air Dominance Center, wrote the Aviationist in an email.
Haldopoulos did not specify the role of the mock-up stealth jet, but there is a reason to believe that the US military is preparing its pilots for an aerial battle over the South China Sea.
The photo caused huge speculation when the Aviationist published the story last Thursday. A civilian spotter who asked to remain anonymous shot the photo from public property.
Social media pundits viewed the photo and offered wide-ranging theories on what the aircraft was doing on an American military base. Many incorrectly questioned if the picture was authentic, some suggested the photo may have been altered or Photoshopped.
Before the Air Force confirmed the USMC-owned J-20 mock-up, Chinese Defense subject matter expert, Andreas Rupprecht, said the plane's exhaust nozzles looked inaccurate and the landing gear was different from a real J-20 stealth fighter jet. These observations confirmed the aircraft was a mock-up and not a real J-20.
The J-20 mock-up hints that the US is preparing its pilots of F-22 Raptors and F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters for possible future dogfights with China.
The Chinese stealth fighter showed off its missile bays last month at an airshow in southern China.
The J-20's chief designer recently said the world has yet to see the best that the aircraft has to offer. The J-20 mock-up shows the American military is taking the Chinese threat seriously, as the Pentagon prepares for war.