Chinese state media on Wednesday reported on pictures that have been in circulation online apparently depicting a prototype of the Chengdu J-20, China’s first stealth fighter, performing high-speed taxi tests.
The photos look to be shot from near the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute, but the identity of the original photographer and his motives remain unknown. The report in the Global Times did not confirm the existence of the photos or their authenticity.
Defense analysts believe that it is the first glimpse of China’s answer to the U.S. Air Force’s F-22 fighter, a plane that is currently on combat missions in Afghanistan and can avoid detection by radar. The J-20, while not as agile as its American counterpart, is bigger and boasts a larger weapon bay. The plane is a mix of Chinese and Russian technology, with Russia having supplied 32,000-pound thrust 117S engines for use by the aircraft.
The photos, if authentic, present an impressive step forward for the Chinese air force. The problem with China’s military capability used to be its lack of long-range power projection capabilities. This aircraft, in conjunction with the surfacing of reports that China’s first aircraft carrier is near completion, may overturn those earlier assertions.
Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, told The Guardian that his country harbored no such desire to compete with the United States militarily.
“We do not see ourselves as rivals to the United States. We believe the U.S. and China can work together in the region,” Liu said.
“When China carries out an exercise on its own territory there is a lot of attention, but when the United States comes all the way across the Pacific for exercises with its allies, no one speaks about it in the same way. There is a cold war mentality still. If you develop your defense capability, they [the Americans] are annoyed. But our defense construction is purely for self-defense. China’s defense expenditure is still the lowest among the five permanent members of the [UN] security council,” he added.
The United States has remained tightlipped over the issue.
Chinese President Hu Jintao is due to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama in two weeks, while U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates visits China this Sunday.
This article was written by the China business and political blog, 2point6billion.com. 2point6billion.com was founded by Chris Devonshire-Ellis, who also founded the China business news site, China-Briefing.com.