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MILPLEX
China stealth-jet firm eyes US contracts: report

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Feb 4, 2011
The maker of China's new stealth fighter plans to team up with a small California firm for what would seem like mission impossible: bidding for US defence contracts, a report said Friday.

China Aviation Industry Corp, or AVIC, is in talks with US Aerospace Inc about joining forces to seek contracts for projects that could include supplying helicopters used by the US president, the Wall Street Journal said.

The report quoted unidentified sources close to the discussions.

The idea appears far-fetched. Previous Chinese moves to enter strategic US sectors have been thwarted after arousing intense political opposition.

That is sure to occur if any Chinese involvement in the defence industry is suggested, especially given growing US concern about China's expanding armed forces.

A prototype of China's first stealth fighter -- the AVIC-produced J-20 -- made its maiden flight last month, shocking observers and underlining the rapid development of China's military capability.

The plane, unveiled during a visit to China by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, is seen as a future rival to the US Air Force's F-22 Raptor, currently the world's only fully operational next-generation stealth fighter jet.

AVIC is discussing with US Aerospace the possibility of offering the AC-313 -- China's largest domestically produced helicopter -- for the next generation of aging Marine One helicopters, which are used to transport the president, the report quoted sources as saying.

They also may put forward AVIC's new L-15 training jet to replace the US Air Force's fleet of Northrop T-38s, it said.

The Pentagon is highly concerned about the possibility of China obtaining US military secrets.

Reports have suggested the Chinese stealth jet may have been made with technology from a US plane shot down in 1999 by Serbian forces during the Kosovo war, but a Chinese defence official has rejected that.

AVIC offices were closed Friday for the Lunar New Year holiday.

The Wall Street Journal said US Aerospace is best known for making an unsuccessful bid last year to enter cargo planes made by Antonov, a state-run Ukrainian company, in a competition to supply the US Air Force with a new aerial tanker.



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