China’s first radar-evading stealth fighter staged a runway test at an airbase in central China on Wednesday and could make its first flight as early as Thursday afternoon, the Hong Kong editor of a Canadian military journal said. But the nation’s state-run media, which called news of the tests “rumors” in Wednesday’s newspapers, sought to play down reports about the aircraft’s capabilities. And comments about the new jet’s test regimen abruptly disappeared from blogs run by Chinese military enthusiasts.
The American magazine Aviation Week & Space Technology first reported on tests of the new plane, designated the J-20, in an article released on Monday. Military analysts say that photographs of the new jet on the tarmac at an airfield near Chengdu, have been appearing on blogs since mid-December.
Andrei Chang, the editor of Kanwa Defense Weekly in Hong Kong, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that he had been authoritatively told that the jet will make its first test flight on Thursday, weather permitting.
He said Chinese officials appeared to have deliberately allowed word of the tests to become public, even to the point of bringing the jet to a Chengdu airfield, Factory 132 of the city’s aircraft design institute, which is commonly watched by military hobbyists, in a bid to display the nation’s growing military sophistication.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is set to arrive in Beijing on Sunday to meet his Chinese counterpart, resuming top-level military consultations that have been all but frozen since the White House announced a $6 billion arms sale to Taiwan last Jan. 29.
“They want to show the U.S., show Mr. Gates, their muscle,” Mr. Chang said.
Although the growth of China’s officially disclosed military budget slowed in 2010, the country remains in the middle of a swift expansion and modernization, much of it centered on improving air, sea and space capabilities.
Chinese military officials say their buildup is entirely defensive. Most analysts say the military’s expansion is part of a long-range strategy to transform the armed forces from a domestic power to a regional one, and ultimately to a force with global reach like that of the United States.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy is reported to be building an aircraft carrier, the first of several that the Pentagon says could be deployed by 2020. The head of the United States Pacific Command, Adm. Robert Willard, told a Japanese newspaper last month that a long-anticipated anti-ship ballistic missile, intended to strike other aircraft carriers, had reached an “initial operational capability.”
Navy officials later amended that, saying that the Chinese have a workable design but that it has yet to be tested.
In news reports, military analysts have suggested that the J-20 remains well behind both Russia’s T-50 jet and the two American stealth aircraft, the F-22 and F-35, in technical sophistication and radar-evading ability. Mr. Chang said the jet’s shortcomings probably include a Chinese-manufactured engine that is substantially inferior to those of its competitors.
Photographs of the jet, taken at the airfield and posted on Chinese Web sites, show an aircraft that mimics the design of the American F-22 Raptor. Aviation Week said that the plane appeared designed to carry larger weapons than the F-22, and analysts said it would be capable of launching cruise missiles and being refueled in midair.
Military analysts quoted in Wednesday’s South China Morning Post said that it would probably take the Chinese a decade to produce the J-20 in large numbers. Mr. Chang said that the military would probably need another 10 to 15 years to develop a stealth fighter equivalent to the advanced models in the United States and Russia.
China's state media have published pictures that appear to show a prototype of the country's first stealth fighter jet — a move that supports experts' claims that China's military aviation program is advancing faster than expected.
The photographs show what appears to be a future J-20 fighter conducting taxi tests on a runway at the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute's airfield in southwestern China. Analysis of the images shows the jet to be larger than either the Russian or U.S. stealth planes, likely allowing it to fly farther and carry heavier weaponry. That could call into question the U.S. decision to cut funding for its own stealth jet, the F-22.
The release of the photos comes just days before U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates begins a long-delayed visit to Beijing, a year after China suspended military ties over arms sales to Taiwan. Now China appears to be showing off its own military hardware.
A future Chinese stealth fighter has long been considered inevitable. Deputy air force chief He Weirong told state broadcaster CCTV in November 2009 that China's fourth-generation fighter — a reference to stealth technology — would begin flight testing soon and could enter service within eight to 10 years.
China's aviation industry, both military and civilian, has made rapid progress in recent years but still relies heavily on imported technology. Propulsion technology has been a particular problem, with Russian engines still employed on China's homemade J-10 fighter jets and the J-11, a copy of Russia's Su-27 fighter jet.
Stealth technology is even more difficult to master because it relies on systems to hide the presence of the plane while equipping the pilot with enough information to attack an enemy. Emissions must be hidden and the plane's fuselage sculpted to avoid detection by radar and infrared sensors.
Chinese progress in that field calls into question Gates' decision to cap production of the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter at 187 planes. Supporters of the F-22 have warned of growing threats from China, as well as Russia, which has developed a stealth prototype that is already in the test flight stage.
Original Artices : http://www.npr.org/2011/01/05/132674896/china-uncloaks-stealth-fighter-prototype?ft=1&f=1001
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