Tokyo: China has completed a prototype of its first known stealth aircraft, media reports said Wednesday, reinforcing the nation`s military buildup ahead of a visit by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates.
China is to start test flights of the J-20 this month with an eye to the deployment of the fighter as early as 2017, Japan`s Asahi daily reported, citing unnamed Chinese military sources.
The J-20, which is larger than the US Air Force`s F-22 Raptor, will be equipped with large missiles and could fly to as far as Guam with aerial refuelling, Asahi said. It would still take another 10 to 15 years to develop technology to catch up with that of the US F-22, the article said.
The J-20 was undergoing high-speed taxi tests late last week at Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute`s airfield, defence industry publication Aviation Week reported. "It is larger than most observers expected - pointing to a long range and heavy weapon loads."
The completion of the J-20 "has confirmed that the Chinese military is rapidly advancing the modernization of its air force while putting more effort into advancing to the open ocean", Asahi said. "The move could have an impact on the military balance in East Asia."
The report came just days before Gates was due to arrive in Beijing. He was also scheduled to visit Japan.
Neighbouring countries are concerned about China`s military buildup. To counter China strengthening its military might, Japan wants to expand military ties with South Korea.
Japan`s Self Defence Forces aimed to purchase the US F-22, but the production of the fighter came to a halt, Asahi reported.