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China confirms maiden flight of fifth-generation fighter

RIA Novosti

15:39 11/01/2011

BEIJING, January 11 (RIA Novosti) - Chinese President Hu Jintao confirmed on Tuesday his country had carried out its first test-flight of a fifth-generation stealth fighter jet.

Hu confirmed the flight during talks with visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

The prototype Black Silk J-20 stealth fighter made the flight at around 1 p.m. on Tuesday, according to information posted by Chinese aviation enthusiasts on websites.

The jet was tailed by two J-10 fighter chase planes during its 20-minute maiden flight.

The J-20 is thought to be similar to the U.S. F-22 Raptor and the Russo-Indian T-50 jets, although imagery and video footage now appearing on the Internet suggests the Chinese model is larger, the Aviation and Aerospace website said. This means it could be capable of flying a longer range and carrying a heavier load.

"The J-20 appears to be either a demonstrator or a prototype of a combat aircraft with low observable characteristics, particularly in the front quadrant," said Douglas Barrie, a senior fellow for military aerospace with the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

China has been working on a future fighter program since the mid-1990s, and the J-20 is notionally anticipated to enter service around 2018-2020, he added.

"The design, particularly the rear section and in plan-form is reminiscent of MiG's 1.42 fighter project, the program for which was cancelled in the latter half of the 1990s," Barrie said.

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