Beijing (UPI) Jan 4, 2011
China has revealed pictures of its first stealth fighter jet on a Chinese non-governmental Web site of a prototype of the Chengdu J-20 fighter being built for the Chinese air force.
Chinese aviation experts say they have been snapping pictures of the aircraft since it took to taxi tests ahead of its first flight test in the coming weeks.
But is the sighting for real? Some experts claim the photos are fake or simply Photoshopped fighters created on computer screens.
Questions also arise over the unusually large Chinese red star painted on the tail.
"The red star insignias are normally smaller with parallel adjacent red bands," Defense News reported.
Other experts, though, say they believe the jet is genuine and long overdue.
"China has the money, they have the industrial expertise, they have the scientific base, the drive and motivation and of course the benefit of American research over 30 years acquired by legal or illegal means," one anonymous observer was quoted by a Time magazine blog site. "These enablers give China wide latitude in matching or exceeding American designs that are now 20 years old."
The photos show the J-20 with a canard-delta twin-engine configuration, diverter-less supersonic intakes and a shaped nose that is consistent with the use of active electronically scanned array radar, the Defense News Web site reported.
The design is viewed as similar to the Martin F-22 Raptor and the Sukhoi T-50 fighters and some observers maintain that the twin-engine configuration could signal use of the Russian-built Saturn 117S (AL-41F1A) engine.
Even so, the release of the J-20 photos follows comments made last week by U.S. Pacific Commander Adm. Robert Willard that China had reached the "initial operational capability" of its first anti-ship ballistic missile, the Dong Feng 21D.
The new weapon, the "D" version of China's DF-21 medium-range missile, entails firing the mobile missile into space, returning it into the atmosphere and then maneuvering it to its target. The deployment of the DF-21D is viewed as a potent threat because it will force U.S. aircraft carriers to operate further from potential hot spots in the Pacific.
Under U.S. military strategy, the Pentagon is obliged to send several strike groups to waters near Taiwan in the case China follows through on threats to retake the island.
The lone U.S. aircraft carrier strike group based permanently in the region is USS George Washington. Its home port is in Japan. A second carrier is planned for Hawaii or Guam.
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