Upping the Ante? – Pictures of China’s prototype stealth fighter jet surface ahead of U.S. Defense Secretary’s visit

January 5, 2011 at 8:51 pm

(Source: Wall Street Journal)

The first clear pictures of what appears to be a Chinese stealth fighter prototype have been published online, highlighting China’s military buildup just days before U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates heads to Beijing to try to repair defense ties.

The photographs, published on several unofficial Chinese and foreign defense-related websites, appear to show a J-20 prototype making a high-speed taxi test—usually one of the last steps before an aircraft makes its first flight—according to experts on aviation and China’s military.

China was probably several years behind Russia, whose first stealth fighter, the Sukhoi T-50, made its first flight in January 2010, but that Beijing was catching up faster than expected.

The Chinese prototype looks like it has “the potential to be a competitor with the F-22 and to be decisively superior to the F-35,” said Mr. Fisher. The J-20 has two engines, like the F-22, and is about the same size, while the F-35 is smaller and has only one engine.

China’s stealth-fighter program has implications also for Japan, which is considering buying F-35s, and for India, which last month firmed up a deal with Russia to jointly develop and manufacture a stealth fighter.

Editor’s Note: This development is not only a challenge to the American dominance and technological superiority in the world of military aviation but also a test (and a considerable threat) to many of so-called China’s regional adversaries, especially the ones noted above – Russia, Japan and India.  Anyone aware of the regional geopolitics in South Asia can likely expect China to pass along the technology (at the least, sell these stealth fighters) to its regional-ally Pakistan in the decades ahead, to counter India’s edge with the joint-production of a stealth fighter using Russian technology.  This will not only up the “heat” at a regional level, but will further push the two nations, as well as the entire region, towards another wave of arms buildup. Though there is no mention of the high-altitude capability of this stealth fighter, it would be interesting to watch how China would deploy these fighters along its disputed border regions with India to guard against any threats from the Tibetan side.  Also, the capability of this new war machine to operate from a sea-borne platform (aircraft carrier, which China is building) would definitely test the power balance between the US and the Chinese in the South China Sea. Above all, I believe this development will encourage other nations to accelerate their own efforts to build a stealth fighter.

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