Photographs of an unidentified fighter jet purportedly taken at the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation in China's Sichuan Province are of the J-20, China's first stealth fighter that has been in clandestine development, experts believe. But others are skeptical of China's technological ability to develop such a plane.
Hong Kong's South China Morning Post on Wednesday said China will test-fly the J-20 "in the next few days in the southwestern city of Chengdu if weather permits," citing Andrei Chang, who runs a military blog in Canada. Chang added that if the test flight succeeds, it would beat western predictions by 10 years.
"U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates had earlier forecast that China would not be able to possess stealth fighter technology until at least 2020," it added.
The Asahi Shimbun also reported that China has completed development of a stealth fighter and that test flights would begin later this month, with actual deployment starting in 2017. On a more official note, the Global Times, a sister publication of China's state-run People's Daily, quoted Chinese military expert Song Xiaojun as saying, "The emergence of the J-20, which has surprised the world, signifies that China has entered the leading ranks of the global aviation industry." Song predicted the J-20 will be deployed for combat by 2018.
China's aviation and naval might is increasing exponentially. In November last year, China unveiled 25 different types of unmanned aircraft, including the WJ-600. Chang speculated that China's airpower already surpasses that of Japan's Self-Defense Forces and it is only a matter of time before the U.S. loses its air supremacy in the Pacific region.
In July this year, China is expected to acquire its first aircraft carrier, which is being modified from the unfinished Soviet carrier called the Varyag. Media reports also indicate that it will launch its first homegrown aircraft carrier next year from a dockyard in Shanghai.
The breakneck speed of military developments in China has raised jitters among American and Indian officials. India began testing its first nuclear-powered submarine in July 2009 and deployed its first-ever homegrown stealth frigate in April of last year.