It is unclear if the appearance of the photos was timed with Panetta’s trip, but the first photos of the Chengdu-built J-20 Black Eagle appeared the same week as former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ visit to China in January 2011.
The new photographs show a twin-engine stealthy fighter with the number 31001 painted on its nose.
The number suggests it is the J-31 Falcon, said Richard Fisher, an Asia military affairs analyst at the Washington-based International Assessment and Strategy Center, but various Chinese-language blogs are debating the designation; with some suggesting it is the J-21 Snowy Owl built by Shenyang Aircraft Corp. (SAC).
In June, several videos appeared on the Internet showing a fighter fuselage, wrapped in a tarp, being transported along a highway from SAC to the Chinese Flight Test Establishment, an air force test center at Xian-Yanliang Airbase, Shaanxi Province. Whether the fuselage was the J-21 is still a matter of debate.
- China’s new fighter on video – Wendell Minnick (chinaspeakersbureau.info)
- US-Taiwan ties strained despite F-16 upgrade deal – Wendell Minnick (chinaspeakersbureau.info)
- Does Taiwan need tanks? – Wendell Minnick (chinaspeakersbureau.info)