US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been forced to admit that China is farther along with its military technical developments than he had previously given it credit for.
Speaking just before arriving in Beijing, Gates, who had previously said the US did not expect to see China unveil a fifth generation combat aircraft before 2020 by which time he expected the US to have “1200 stealth combat aircraft”, has now acknowledged that China appeared to be further along than he had thought.
“We knew they were working on a stealth aircraft. I think that what we’ve seen is that they may be somewhat further ahead in the development of that aircraft than our intelligence had earlier predicted,” he said, but stood by his assertion that the US would hold a vast advantage in numbers.
China has reportedly allowed footage and still imagery to be releasedof a prototype combat aircraft being ground tested at its Chengdu facility in northeastern China in recent weeks. The most recent combat aircraft to enter Chinese service, the J-10, was developed in the late 1990s and had entered operational test before it was revealed in 2006.
Commentators have dubbed the new aircraft the Chengdu J-20 or J-XX in lieu of official confirmation from the Chinese government.