Don’t expect the Corps' new Chinese J-20 stealth fighter prototype to be dogfighting with Marine jets — the mock-up aircraft wasn’t built for flight training.
The replica Chinese fighter was first spotted at Savannah-Hilton Head Airport and then temporarily parked at Air Dominance Center in Savannah, Georgia, the Aviationist reported.
The prototype high-tech stealth aircraft was not built for the U.S. Air Force, but as a training tool for Marines as the Corps continues to modernize its force for a bout with peer rivals.
A statement to Marine Corps Times from Marine Corps Training and Education Command, or TECOM, said the prototype Chinese fighter was not built for flight training.
The Corps wanted the mock-up Chinese aircraft for visual and sensor training, all of which will be conducted on the ground.
“TECOM has contracted with the Army Threat Systems Management Office (TSMO) to provide full scale, realistic aircraft and vehicle mock-ups for multiple Marine Corps Bases, Range Training Systems Program (RTSP) requests from 2018,” TECOM said in a statement.
Rene Gilliland, a program administration specialist supporting the Army’s Targets Management Office, said the contract was officially with the Army’s Targets Management Office, a sister organization of TSMO.
The Corps’ operating forces collaborated with Marine Corps Range and Training Area Management Branch to identify various threat systems to replicate.
“The initial aircraft mock-up identified was a J-20 fighter to develop as a proof of concept, with a plan to develop additional threat aircraft and vehicles in the future,” TECOM explained.
“The prototype was built by a contractor in LaGrange, GA and was moved to Air Dominance Center (ADC) Savannah, Georgia to evaluate the assembly and dis-assembly process, heat and light signatures, and prepare for movement to the chosen training area in North Carolina,” TECOM said.
It’s not uncommon for the Corps to seek out realistic peer rival aircraft for training purposes or even for realistic aggressive opposing forces training.
As the Corps has spent the past 17 years fighting low intensity and low-tech conflicts in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, it has had to dust off old playbooks from the Cold War-era to prepare its forces once again for conventional nation-state warfare.
Just this year the Corps submitted a solicitation on federal government’s business opportunities portal seeking a Russian Mi-24 HIND gunship helicopter or Mi-17 HIP transport helicopter.
The helicopters were needed to provide a realistic training scenario and challenge for Marine artillery and air defense operations should the Corps someday find its forces fighting more sophisticated and technologically adept forces on the battlefield.
“The attack helicopter will act as an aggressor to interfere with the exercises forces conducting offensive, defensive and stability operations,” the solicitation stated. “This will include potential use during friendly aviation operations in order to force decision making.”
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.