The newest addition to China’s air force, the J-20 stealth fighter, will make its first public flight this week. But the fighter jet’s first outing could be controversial, with previous reports claiming the J-20’s design comes from stolen plans obtained by hackers.
The claims have been firmly denied by the Chinese.
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.
The new Chinese war plane will take to the skies during the Zhuhai Air Show, its manufacturer announced today, as Beijing flexes its long-range military muscles.
The J-20, ‘which military enthusiasts at home and abroad have watched closely’, will make its first public flight demonstration, said Tan Ruisong, the president of China’s state aerospace company AVIC.
China trailed the world in aerospace technology 20 years ago, he told a press conference, but is now at the leading edge.
Beijing is seeking to modernise and upgrade its military both to protect its borders and project power into regions such as the South China Sea, a resource-rich waterway where it has disputes with several neighbours.
China’s only international aerospace exhibition, held biennially in the southern city of Zhuhai, this year boasts its largest-ever display of military hardware and aircraft, with 11 exhibition halls, 430,000 square metres of indoor and outdoor viewing area, and 151 aircraft from 700 exhibitors from 42 countries and regions.
The show will also see the debut of the Y-20 transport aircraft, which can move heavy loads and carry out airlifts to assist military activities.
Chinese-made military assault vehicles, anti-aircraft missile systems, drones and fighter jets stood on display outside the exhibition centre.
AVIC chief Tan said his company had business in 80 countries and territories, with annual overseas sales exceeding 80 billion yuan ($11.8bn / £9.7bn).
The firm will firmly remember its ‘sacred mission’ to serve China, he said. It would carry out the strategic plan of the Communist party, the government and the People’s Liberation Army and ‘closely unite around the core leadership of comrade Xi Jinping’.
AVIC, which earlier this year acquired British cabin interior supplier AIM Altitude, would ‘persistently struggle’ to realise the dream of a great Chinese air force and a strong military, he added.
China is aggressively moving to develop its domestic weapons industry, from drones and anti-aircraft systems to homegrown jet engines.
In the past, it has been accused of copying designs from Russian fighters, and some analysts say its next-generation J-31 stealth fighter bears a close resemblance to the US-developed F-35.
Another exhibitor at this week’s airshow, China South Industries Group Corporation, showed off 70 products focused on anti-terror operations, fast response forces and aircraft munitions.
China’s military focus on stealth technology remains a key issue for Beijing.
Earlier this month, leaked images emerged of the military’s enormous stealth warship, currently under construction at the Jiangnan Changxing shipyards.
Known as a Type 005 destroyer, the vessel is believed to be armed with electromagnetic railguns capable of shooting down missiles and firing on land targets.
The leaked images revealed the battle ship’s progress, with signs of portals on the stern for sensors and weapons and up to 128 vertical launch system cells for missiles.
It was also reported in September that a Chinese firm claimed to have developed radar technology capable of detecting stealth jets.
Called the quantum radar, the technology was reportedly created by Intelligent Perception Technology, a branch of defence and electronics firm CETC.
They firm claims it is capable of detecting a target at a range of 60 miles and was successfully tested last month.
China has pushed for dominance in the South China Sea, following a number of contentious claims over who owns territory in the region.
The two major island chains in the region, the Spratlys and the Paracels, have become central to the international argument, causing tensions to rise.
Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines all have claims on the region, but China has surged ahead with expansive military operations, including the building of its own islands in disputed spots to stake its claim and bolster a military presence.