Now You See It, Now You Don’t

The Chinese have unveiled, if that is the right word, a new stealth jet fighter, the J-20. I’d tell you more about it except that I can’t see it.

Just kidding. That’s it to the right.

They didn’t really develop their own version so much as they copied one of our models, the F-22. And ‘copy’ is not really the right word here: according to eyewitness sources, it looks like ours, but is purported to be less sophisticated than ours. It’s not like you could take a jet fighter, put it into a giant copy machine, press a button, and then moments later an exact copy would slide out the tray.

So it might be more correct to say merely that theirs looks like ours on the outside.

The U.S. military first brought out stealth aircraft technology in the early 1980’s with the F-117 Nighthawk, which was hugely successful. Thereafter came the B-2 bomber and the F-22 Raptor. The latest U.S. stealth fighter is the F-35 Lightning II, which is so advanced it will be used to battle giant warrior bugs on Mars.

Part of what makes the F-22 stealthy is the outer shape, which is designed to reduce radar reflections, but there are also other factors to keep a stealth plane hidden from an enemy’s sensors, such as heat and sound. Plus, there are top secret electronic systems at play that complete the plane’s ability to hide from radar, sonar, and even Jewish grandmothers. One could deduce that the Chinese doppelgänger would lack these crucial abilities.

A vaguely alchemical technology central to stealthiness is “metamaterial,” which involves tweaking the properties of substances so that light bends around it. This was the industrial magic behind what made James Bond’s Aston Martin Vanquish invisible in “Die Another Day”. The Chinese are not having luck in developing this technology, so they are looking elsewhere.

Rumors circulating around Beijing suggest that top scientists from the Peoples Bullying Party have tried zealously to procure large quantities of invisibility cloaks, like the kind worn by Harry Potter. Agents of the Central Committee have spent months trying in vain to gain access to Diagon Alley, the main street of the magical market zone. A secret document discovered in a fortune cookie says that Chinese agents would pay “hansomry” for 1,000 cloaks, enough to cover a couple J-20‘s.

This intrepid reporter could not determine if the Peoples Bullying Party is made up entirely of muggles or not, but it appears that way.

The J-20 was given a very rigorous test at Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute, where it zoomed down the runway at a hair-mussing 30 mph. Clearly the Peoples Liberation Army didn’t want to damage their precious new fighter by pushing it too hard.

One of the main reasons why the Chinese military is having difficulty bringing a competitive fighter jet into the not-so-friendly skies is that they rely on outmoded Russian engines. These engines, borrowed from the Russian Su-27 jet, first flown in 1977, are themselves derived from the Vyatka Automat-1 washing machine, and can reach speeds of 300-350 rpm.

Fling Dung, of the Peoples Propaganda Department, likes to look on the bright side, and says that if the J-20 does not reach its full potential as a deadly jet fighter, it still could be used to clean — very slowly — the heavily polluted skies of Chinese cities. A proud achievement indeed.

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