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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Experts doubt 'stealth' capability of Chinese fighters

Central News Agency

2011/01/04 19:55:11

By Emmanuelle Tzeng & Bear Lee

Taipei, Dec. 4 (CNA) Local military analysts expressed doubt Tuesday about the "stealth' capability of a Chinese stealth fighter that reportedly has been performing high-speed taxiing tests recently.

Pictures of the prototype J-20 stealth fighter were posted on several websites after the U.S.-based Aviation Week reported that the aircraft had been carrying out taxiing tests at an airfield in Chengdu, western China, late last month.

The debut of the J-20 was announced in November 2009 by General He Weirong, deputy commander of the People's Liberation Army Air Force, during an interview on Chinese TV.

The general said a "fourth-generation" stealth fighter would be launched in 2010-2011 and would become operational by 2017-2019, according to the weekly.

Taiwan's military declined to comment on the emergence of the Chinese stealth fighters.

However, Shih Hiao-wei, director of the News Converge Department of the Defense International monthly, said that judging from its contours, the fighter most likely has stealth technology developed by the U.S. or Russia over the past 20 years.

"But to what extent it possess the technology remains to be seen," Shih said.

He said the design of the J-20's cowling, jet and pelvic fin makes it less capable of hiding its shape, especially when it makes a turn or comes under a multi-radar system.

Local military observers expressed worry that the Chinese stealth fighters, if they become operational, would put Taiwan's air force at disadvantage even if Taiwan upgrades its F-16 A/6 fleet or acquires F-16 C/D fighters.

Taiwan would only be able to match up against the Chinese fighters if it obtains F-35s, or a similar model, the observers said.

Wong Ming-hsien, director of the Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies, said that the reported Chinese stealth fighters would be mainly to match the the U.S.' F-22s or F-35s and would take around 10 years to become fully operational.

"It is too early to talk about how Taiwan should respond -- we need not scare ourselves," Wong said.

Legislator Lin Yu-fang said that China would not necessarily be able to build advanced military aircraft even though it could produce nuclear weapons or build its own aircraft carriers.

The prototype J-20 is an indication that China has made slow progress in building military aircraft, but "it has a long way to go to produce a stealth fighter that could compete with those of the U.S. or Russia," Lin added.

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