The reason China did not assign the serial number 2014 to one of its six J-20 prototypes is because four is considered an unlucky number from the perspective of traditional Chinese culture, reports American military expert Richard D Fisher Jr in London-based Jane’s Defence Weekly on Jan. 6.
By allowing the public to know the existence of its two additional J-20 fifth-generation stealth fighters in November and December of 2014, the ambition of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force to put the aircraft into operation between 2017 and 2018 was revealed. Among those six aircraft, two of them are designed as technology development craft with 2001 and 2002 as their serial numbers. Four other modified versions of the J-20 then emerged in 2014.
The serial numbers for those four J-20s are 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015. Fisher believes that the number 2014 was skipped because four is not a lucky number in Chinese culture. It sounds very similar to the Chinese word for death. Sources from the internet said that 2013 and 2015 were the aircraft which completed their maiden flights on Nov. 29 and Dec. 18, 2014 from an airfield held by Chengdu Aircraft Corporation.
Fisher said that 2013 and 2015 lack the nose-mounted pitot tubes that were featured on the earlier prototypes. Also, the 2015 has longer and sharper-shaped rear-fuselage horizontal strakes. Like the Grumman X-29, the strakes contribute to aircraft stability, according to Fisher.
Unnamed sources told the Jane’s Defence Weekly last year that China is very likely to have 24 J-20 fighters by the year 2020. This is enough to equip a fighter regiment for the PLA Air Force.