London, Jan 5 (ANI): China may have started testing a new stealth aircraft and photographs of the latest J-20 taking high-speed taxi tests at an airfield have appeared on several websites, fuelling speculation that Beijing is not particularly concerned about keeping its latest weapon under wraps, according to aviation experts.
The security at the airfield where the J-20 was photographed was slack and the prototype could be viewed from several public areas, the Aviation Week website reports.
The leak of photographs supports earlier claims by the Chinese military that a stealth aircraft would be airborne by 2011 and could be operational by 2017.
But US Defence Secretary Robert Gates dismissed that idea at the time, claiming that China would not have stealth fighters operational before 2020.
Experts point out that the Chinese version is larger than most observers expected - 'pointing to long range and heavy weapon loads'.
"The J-20 is a single-seat, twin-engine aircraft, bigger and heavier than the [Russian] Sukhoi T-50 and the [U.S.] F-22," Aviation Week noted on its website.
"Comparison with ground-service vehicles points to an overall length of 75 ft and a wingspan of 45 ft. or more, which would suggest a takeoff weight in the 75,000-80,000-lb. class with no external load," it said.
"The major open question at this point is whether the J-20 is a true prototype, like the T-50, or a technology demonstrator, with a status similar to the YF-22 flown in 1990. That question will be answered by whether, and how many, further J-20s enter flight testing in the next 12-24 months," Aviation Week said on its website. (ANI)