China unveils first stealth jet, Pak eyes export variant
China on Tuesday unveiled its J-20 stealth fighter jet at its biggest air show, which will have major implications for India as it is the first indigenously-made fifth-generation aircraft that Pakistan has shown interest in acquiring.
Two J-20 aircraft, which made waves in the Chinese media in the last few years flew at the Zhuhai city air show, in which the Pakistan Air Force is also participating with its J-17 Thunder jets that are jointly manufactured with China.
This is the first, public show of the J-20 warplane.
Pakistan, the largest importer of Chinese arms, has earlier said that it is in talks with China to buy the FC-31 – an export variant of the same aircraft. The FC-31 was briefly flown in the 2014 Zhuhai airshow.
The stealth aircraft is regarded as major breakthrough for China, which is otherwise mostly reliant on Russian aircraft, including advanced versions of Sukhois.
India is yet to make a stealth aircraft, which can penetrate through enemy radars.
The J-20 aircraft will fly over the weeklong show each day after taking off from an airfield in nearby Foshan, but visitors will not be able to view the aircraft close up on the ground.
An official in the People's Liberation Air Force (PLAF) said the aircraft would not be displayed in public because the "J-20 contains many of China's top technologies in stealth aircraft plus other military secrets".
"The secrets include the J-20's body shape, the proportion of its wing and body and other secrets as aircraft experts can easily calculate its stealth parameters from its exterior," Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted the unnamed PLAF official as saying.
The J-20 earlier made waves earlier as its picture covered in tarpaulin at an airport in Tibet. The J-20 has already created a buzz about its likely deployment on the India-China border though Chinese experts say it is unlikely.
A write-up in the China Military Online in September stated that "it is said that J-20 will be put into service soon but the China-India border is apparently not the ideal place for its deployment".
"In addition, the world's highest airport there does not have a complete set of supporting facilities and such shortage will impede the function of J-20".
Experts added that if China is to deploy J-20 targeting India, it will do that only when the maintenance and operation of the aircraft in plain bases becomes mature.