Second stealth jet puts China on path to top regional power: expert

BEIJING Fri Nov 2, 2012 3:23am EDT

1 of 3. A 'Guying' stealth fighter participates in a test flight in Shenyang, Liaoning province, October 31, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

Related Topics

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's second stealth fighter jet that was unveiled this week is part of a program to transform China into the top regional military power, an expert on Asian security said on Friday.

The fighter, the J-31, made its maiden flight on Wednesday in the northeast province of Liaoning at a facility of the Shenyang Aircraft Corp which built it, according to Chinese media.

"This is the second entirely new fighter design that's emerged from China in the last two years, which suggests a pretty impressive level of technical development, and puts them ahead, certainly, of all their regional neighbors," said Sam Roggeveen, a security expert with the Lowy Institute in Sydney.

The Chinese military "has been extremely deliberate and well funded and persistent, and it's starting to bear fruit", Roggeveen said.

"What you're now seeing since the early ‘90s is the slow emergence of a first-class regional military power."

China's Defence Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

China's previous stealth fighter, the J-20, is a heavier aircraft and believed to be less manoeuvrable than the J-31.

China's military capabilities lag far behind those of the United States, but China is seeking aggressively to boost its strength, including launching its first aircraft carrier - purchased from Ukraine - in September.

The buildup is a worry for neighbors uneasy about China flexing its military muscle, especially in territorial disputes with Japan in the East China Sea and with Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea.

"Just like the U.S. F-22 and F-35 fifth-generation fighters, the J-20 and J-31 will complement each other during future operations," Bai Wei, former deputy editor of the weekly Aviation World, told the Global Times newspaper.

"The J-31 is almost certainly designed with the intention to have the potential of operating on aircraft carriers, judging from its enhanced double-wheel nose landing gear and two big tail wings, which help increase vertical stability," Bai said.

China needs both the heavier J-20 and more nimble J-31 to defend its air space, Bai said.

The J-31 is a mid-sized fighter using Russian-made engines which will later be replaced by Chinese engines, the Global Times reported.

"The big Achilles heel for Chinese aerospace generally, and particularly for both of these two programs, is engines," Roggeveen, a former analyst for Australian government intelligence and editor of the Lowy Institute's blog LowyInterpreter.org.

"They still rely very much on foreign technology, and their progress on developing domestic high-performance engines for combat aircraft has been frustrating and slow," he said.

While the J-31 and J-20 will add to China's offensive as well as defensive capability, "it will take many, many years" for them to enter service with the air force, Roggeveen said.

(Reporting by Terril Yue Jones; Editing by Robert Birsel)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (6)
Pterosaur wrote:
China should spend on its defense a budget that is commenurate to its economy. It should learn from history that a weak defense is a sure way to be bullied and destroyed by the neo-colonists and imperialists.

Nov 02, 2012 12:46pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Pterosaur wrote:
And I would add that a strong Chinese defense is a deterrant to colonists and imperialists to swallow up smaller countries in the East Asia, despite the fact some of these smaller countries did not want to see a strong Chinese defense.

Nov 02, 2012 4:25pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Free_Pacific wrote:
The only empire that is ‘swallowing up territory’ in the asia-pacific is China. Everyone else put their guns away long ago.

Being one of the ‘small countries’, I can see the colonies of Tibet and Turkestan quite clearly. Also the newly stolen shoals like Panatag and Mischief reef. Agressive naval activity harrasing fisherman etc… etc… all the work of China. There is no other aggressive power in region. Just a network of like minded friends. Friends that the CCP certainly does not possess. You are alone Pterosaur and sooner or later, you own lies will swallow you whole.

Nov 02, 2012 7:52pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.