China's Stealth Jet 'Homegrown'

Pilot says fighter plane is "masterpiece of China's technological innovation."

Chinese military officials gather around the J-20 stealth fighter after it made its first-known test flight in Sichuan province, Jan. 11, 2011.

China's state-run media on Tuesday denied allegations that the Jian-20 stealth fighter plane unveiled earlier this month used technology stolen from the United States.

According to the Global Times, which has the direct backing of the ruling Communist Party, military officials say the plane is entirely homegrown.

It quoted a senior Chinese test pilot as saying that the plane was a "masterpiece" of homegrown innovation.

"Unlike previous fighters such as the J-7 and J-8, which drew on the merits of aircraft from other countries, the J-20 is a masterpiece of China's technological innovation," it quoted pilot Xu Yongling as saying.

The paper, which is a sister publication of the Communist Party mouthpiece The People's Daily, said allegations that China had acquired the technology from the U.S. amounted to nothing but a Western "smear campaign."

'Breakthrough' features

Key design features of stealth aircraft built to avoid radar detection.
Xu said the aircraft boasted advanced supersonic cruise ability and other "breakthrough" features of a "fifth generation" fighter, such as America's F-22 Raptor.

The paper also quoted a senior defense official as saying that the plane had been the subject of a smear campaign by Western media.

"It's not the first time foreign media has smeared newly unveiled Chinese military technologies. It's meaningless to respond to such speculations," the official was quoted as saying.

Asked about the J-20 at a regular news conference on Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said: "I don't know about this matter."


The Global Times report was an apparent response to the jailing on Monday of a former B-2 stealth bomber engineer by a U.S. court for selling military secrets to China.

The court in the Hawaiian capital, Honolulu, heard that Noshir Gowadia, 66, made profits of at least U.S. $110,000 by selling classified engine technology.

The prosecution said that China needed the technology to help it design a stealth cruise missile that could evade infrared detection.

Former Northrop Grumman engineer Gowadia traveled to China repeatedly between 2003 and 2005 as a freelance consultant to China's cruise missile program, the court heard.

State-run media frequently lauds the country's engineering achievements as examples of Beijing's rising power and prestige.

Russian technology

However, defense analysts say the J-20 appears to have been developed more from Russian technology than from anything made in America.

Russian analysts told the industry magazine Jane's Defense Weekly that the Russian origins of the plane were unmistakable.

The surprise test flight came during a rare visit to China by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, at a time of increasing concern in the United States over China's military ambitions.

Reports of the J-20's maiden flight appeared in official media ahead of Gates' visit.

Photos appeared online of a fighter plane in flight, along with accounts of the J-20 fighter making a brief flight from an airport in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

Newspapers directly controlled by the Communist Party endorsed the mission as "successful."

Gates' visit was aimed at mending military ties strained by the sale of a U.S. $6.4 billion U.S. arms package to Taiwan in January 2010, and amid signs that China's military spending will soon rise sharply.

The official newspaper of the elite Chinese Communist Party school, the Study Times, recently estimated that defense spending would soon rise to take up between 2.6 percent and 2.8 percent of the economy, compared with just 1.5 percent now.

Reported by Ho Shan for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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Jan 25, 2011 10:32 PM