Within the past few days photographs have surfaced of what appears to be a new stealth fighter aircraft being developed by China. What is being called the J-20 prototype was photographed during a high-speed taxi test and boasts two angled tailfins similar to those of the F-22 Raptor, the United States’ own stealth fighter. These photographs were released by unofficial Chinese defense-related websites according to The Wall Street Journal Online. It is presumed that the photographs were taken from the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute in western China.
At this time experts are in disagreement to authenticity of the prototype, specifically whether it is a functioning aircraft or a mock-up. One of the photographs show the nose wheel apparently off of the ground, indicating a high-speed taxi test performance. According to The Wall Street Journal Online, aviation desk editor at Jane’s Defence Weekly said, “It’s pretty far down the line. The fact that its nose wheel is off the ground in one picture suggests this was a high-speed taxi test—that usually means a test flight very soon afterwards. All the talk we’ve heard is that this could happen some time in the next few weeks.”
These photographs have surfaced just days before the U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is due to meet with Chinese officials in Beijing, a trip intended to improve U.S. military relations with China. According to the New York Times, some experts believe that the timing is not a coincidence. “This is their new policy of deterrence,” Andrei Chang, the Hong Kong editor in chief of the Canadian journal Kanwa Defense Weekly, who reported the jet’s tests, said Wednesday. “They want to show the U. S., show Mr. Gates, their muscle.”
According to Bloomberg.com the head of Navy intelligence, Vice Admiral Jack Dorsett, said that it is too early to tell if the Pentagon has “misjudged China’s capability to build a stealth fighter jet”. The possible stealth fighter advances and the recent advances in China’s missile technology pose a threat to the United States’ military dominance in the Pacific. News of these advances is now becoming public as the United States Congress is deciding cuts in the Defense budget.