Excerpted From The Daily Mail: China’s controversial stealth jet has made its first flyby, giving the public and media a glimpse of the aircraft believed to be a copy of America’s F-22 and built using hacked US military blueprints.
Taking to the skies at the airshow in the southern city of Zhuhai, in Guangdong province, the J-20 stealth fighter passed by onlookers in a thunderous demonstration.
The aircraft is believed to have been built in part from plans of US war planes, obtained by Chinese hackers jailed earlier this year – a claim which Beijing has firmly denied.
Military analysts have said it is still too early to tell if the jet matches the capabilities of the US F-22 Raptor.
After arriving as a pair at low-level, one of the J-20s quickly disappeared over the horizon, leaving the other to perform a series of turns, revealing its delta wing shape against bright sub-tropical haze.
But analysts said the brief and relatively cautious J-20 routine – the pilots did not open weapon bay doors, or perform low-speed passes – answered few questions.
‘I think we learned very little. We learned it is very loud. But we can’t tell what type of engine it has, or very much about the mobility’, said Greg Waldron, Asia Managing Editor of FlightGlobal. ‘Most importantly, we didn’t learn much about its radar cross-section’.
A key question whether the new Chinese fighter can match the radar-evading properties of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor air-to-air combat jet, or the latest strike jet in the U.S. arsenal, Lockheed’s F-35.
But the mere display of such a newly developed aircraft was a revealing signal, others said.
‘It’s a change of tactics for the Chinese to publicly show off weapons that aren’t in full squadron service yet,” said Sam Roggeveen, a senior fellow at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute, ‘and demonstrates a lot of confidence in the capability, and also a lot of pride’.
But the fighter jet’s development has been controversial, embroiled in claims of espionage.
Earlier this year, a Chinese national, 51-year-old Su Bin, was sent to prison for his part in stealing US military plans and sending documents to Beijing.
The documents were reported to include plans for the F-35 and F-22 fighter jets, which would have enabled the Chinese military to rapidly catch up with US capabilities.
Airshow China, in the southern city of Zhuhai, has offered Beijing an opportunity to demonstrate its ambitions in civil aerospace and to underline its defence ambitions.
China is set to overtake the US as the world’s top aviation market in the next decade.
Unofficial shots of a J-20 prototype fueled discussion over the region’s power balance when first glimpsed by plane spotters in 2010.
Experts say China has been refining designs in hopes of narrowing a military gap with Washington.
Cao Qingfeng, an aircraft engineer watching the flypast, said the ‘stunning’ display was a show of China’s strengthening aircraft industry and manufacturing – and Western officials agreed.
‘This shows they now have confidence to put it out in public,’ said a Western industry official who has monitored the biennial show from its inception 20 years ago.
‘This is the airplane for China in the way that the J-31 is not; this is the one they develop for themselves,’ he added.
Despite the impressive show of aerial military might, some foreign observers have questioned its stealth capabilities. Keep reading