January 5, 2011

Photos Reportedly Show Prototype Chinese Stealth Fighter

Leaked photos and media reports quoting sources in the Chinese military sources suggest that the country has created a prototype version of a new stealth fighter.

The craft, the Chengdu J-20 fighter, is being built for the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), according to Wendell Minnick of Defense News. However, according to AFP reports, the craft is a long way from being completed and fully operational.

Rick Fisher, a Chinese military export working at the International Assessment and Strategy Center (IASC), told AFP's Sebastian Blanc said that the J-20 "will become fully competitive with the F-22, in capability and perhaps in numbers, around the end of this decade."

Likewise, People's Liberation Army expert Dennis Blasko told Blanc that the timeline for the vehicles development was most likely "considerably longer" than most spectators would assume.

Photos depicting the stealth fighter were published on "Chinese non-governmental websites," Minnick said, adding that, in the pictures, the J-20 "appears to be conducting a high-speed taxi test."

"There have been suggestions the photographs are fake, including questions over the unusually large Chinese red star painted on the tail. PLAAF red star insignias are normally smaller with parallel adjacent red bands," said Minnick. "However, the newest photos are 'the real deal,'" according to what Fisher told the Defense News reporter.

The Associated Press (AP) also reported that the photos were published, along with front-page articles on the aircraft, on both the English and Chinese language editions of the Global Times. The AP says that the Global Times "did not comment on the authenticity of the pictures, but since the government wields extensive control over state media, the report's appearance and the fact that censors have not removed images from websites suggest a calculated move to leak the information into the public sphere."

Both the AP and AFP attempted to contact the Chinese Defense Ministry for comment. Officials with the military declined to comment when contacted by the AFP, and the AP's phone calls to the Defense Ministry went unanswered, according to reports by both wire services.


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