Online images show test flight of Chinese stealth fighter

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

WASHINGTON - Online images have appeared of the first test flight of a Chinese stealth fighter, sparking speculation that a country which is otherwise secretive of its military developments could have deliberately leaked the visuals to send out a powerful message to the world.

According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), online images, Twitter accounts and Chinese bloggers revealed that the J-20 took off from an airstrip at the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute just before 1 p.m. local time and flew for about 20 minutes.

The test flight last week came ahead of US Defence Secretary Robert Gates visit to Beijing to meet top Chinese leaders.

Photographs of the twin-engine plane in flight appeared on several unofficial Chinese defence-related websites, which have also posted dozens of still and video images of the J-20, WSJ said.

The images suggest that China is making faster-than-expected progress in developing a potential rival to the US F-22 Raptor, currently the world’s only fully operational stealth fighter. The US is also developing the F-35 Lightning II, an advanced stealth fighter that has short take off and landing capabilities to enable it operate from aircraft carriers.

Chinese authorities, who routinely delete politically sensitive material and detain those who produce it, have allowed the J-20 images to be circulated in what military experts say is a clear sign that the People’s Liberation Army wanted them made public, WSJ said.

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