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Articles / Technology

By Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON | Wed Jan 5, 2011 5:22pm EST

(Reuters) - China is still years away from being able to field a stealth aircraft, despite the disclosure of images indicating that it appears to have a working prototype, Pentagon officials said on Wednesday.

The images have been posted on a number of websites and were published on the front page of The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. The Pentagon said they appeared to show a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter prototype making a high-speed taxi test.

The disclosure of the photographs comes just days before U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is due to travel to Beijing on Sunday, and analysts could only speculate about the motives for their sudden appearance.

"This might be just a way of demonstrating that whatever obstacles there might have been (to China developing these technologies), they've overcome them," said Randy Schriver, a China expert and former State Department official for Asia.

The pictures are likely to heighten concerns about China's military buildup, including possible deployment in 2011 of its first aircraft carrier and a new anti-ship ballistic missile seen as a threat to U.S. aircraft carriers.

Some analysts say that the J-20 photos, if authentic, are a strong indicator that China is making faster-than-expected progress in developing a rival to Lockheed Martin's F-22 Raptor, the world's only operational stealth fighter designed to evade detection by enemy radar.

But U.S. Vice Admiral David Dorsett, director of naval intelligence, said deployment of the J-20 was years away.

"It's still not clear to me when it's going to become operational," he said. "Developing a stealth capability with a prototype and then integrating that into a combat environment is going to take some time."

He dismissed any suggestions that the Pentagon had underestimated China's stealth capability.

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said China was still having problems with the engines for its previous generation of fighter jets.

"Our assessment of when China might have an operational fifth generation fighter puts it at some point in the future, close to the end of this decade," Lapan said.


A U.S. intelligence official estimated in May that the J-20 could rival the F-22 Raptor within eight years.

The Raptor is the premier U.S. fighter, with cutting-edge "fifth-generation" features, including shapes, materials and propulsion systems designed to make it appear as small as a swallow on enemy radar screens.

The United States hopes to field a successor to the F-22, known as the F-35, in the coming years, and news of faster-than-expected Chinese stealth technology could add pressure on Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon to speed development.

The revelation comes on the heels of warnings from the head of U.S. forces in the Pacific about China's new anti-ship ballistic missile, which could target U.S. aircraft carriers.

U.S. officials acknowledge China has moved faster than expected in developing the missile and is now in a position to start deploying it.

Dorsett said it would be a mistake to underestimate China's military advances, fueled by its fast-growing economy. At the same time, their military capabilities were only a shadow of the U.S. armed forces, he said.

"We see them progressing rather dramatically across a variety of areas, but no, I don't view them as 10-feet tall," he said.

(Additional reporting by David Alexander; editing by Anthony Boadle)

Source: Reuters
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Posted by Tibor on January 6, 2011 at 5:39 pm
Pictures would be nice.
Posted by RylandP on January 7, 2011 at 11:49 pm
China's ascendancy as the world's main economic power has made some people nervous. I read this here: <a title="The worry of a new Chinese stealth fighter" href="">China flexes muscle with new Chinese stealth fighter</a>.
Based on the NY Times, a bit of patriotic saber-rattling within the form of a brand new Chinese stealth fighter will not help these people rest easier. Called the J-20, the 5th generation stealth fighter aircraft has the curious pondering the stealth fighter Chinese standing, and whether we should be concerned.
Posted by soccergod78 on January 8, 2011 at 9:54 pm
What makes me nervous is the americans attempt at intimidating the rest of the world with articles about other countries advancements It reminds me of a recent war over phantom weapons of mass destruction......political propaganda seems to be americas biggest weapon these days. And after that they really don't hold much credibility with some like myself. I still do not like the idea of a communist country developing these new radical advancements however who am i to tell them they shouldn't have the same advancements as the rest of us? Very difficult to comment on this one....
Posted by nova on January 18, 2011 at 10:17 am
You can find the video here:
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