China has staged a second test flight of its new stealth fighter jet in its latest display of military strength.
Scores of people watched the prototype J-20 take to the skies at an airfield in Chengdu, in Sichuan province.
They cheered and applauded as it made several passes, waggling its wings ‘to salute the crowd,’ according to one onlooker.
Trial: The J-20 was caught on camera during its second test flight this weekend as China put on a show of its military might
Development: The jet took off from a base in Chengdu, Sichuan, and was watched by a cheering crowd
The stealth jet took off at 4.25pm and landed at 5.50pm, in a display timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the aviation industry.
An initial test flight, which took place on January 11 when U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates was in China, was comparatively brief at 18 minutes.
A slew of pictures of the J-20 prototype have been circulating on online military forums.
The flight was also reported in the Global Times, a popular tabloid owned by the Communist party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily.
It ran a picture of a grey fighter plane and a caption that read ‘an alleged J-20 prototype prepares to take off.’
China’s Defence Ministry has not commented on the story.
But the latest test flight, which took place at the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute’s airfield, pushes the burgeoning superpower closer towards America’s military might.
The U.S. F-22 Raptor is currently the only operational stealth fighter in the world, while Russia's Sukhoi T-50 jet is expected to enter active service in the next four years.
But pictures of China's J-20, which looks larger than the F-22 or T-50, will be of concern to the Taiwanese government, whose antiquated aircraft and radar systems would provide little resistance to radar-evading Chinese jets.
The U.S. has claimed China would not be capable of developing a stealth jet for years and production of the F-22 was recently capped.
But the J-20's successful test, coupled with reports of the development of an aircraft carrier and missile system, confirms China's growing military might.
Xu Yongling, one of China’s elite test pilots, told the Global Times that each test fight brings the craft closer to mass production.
‘The first 10 to 20 tests are meant to calibrate the entire aircraft, including its stability, handling qualities and performance. All of them are short in time, but the entire process will take years to complete,’ he said.
Sabre rattling: Scores of people gathered to watch China's J-20 stealth fighter jet complete a second test flight on Sunday
Original: America is the only country to have an operational stealth bomber
The development of China’s stealth bomber has been shrouded in secrecy and generated headline grabbing reports that the technology was gleaned from a downed U.S. fighter jet.
Military officials say it is likely the Chinese were able to develop the stealth technology from parts of an American F-117 Nighthawk that was shot down over Serbia in 1999.
During Nato’s aerial bombing of the country during the Kosovo war, a Serbian anti-aircraft missile shot the Nighthawk. It was the first time one of the ‘invisible’ fighters had ever been hit.
The Pentagon believed a combination of clever tactics and luck had allowed a Soviet-built SA-3 missile to bring down the jet.
The pilot ejected and was rescued but the wreckage was strewn over a wide area of farmland.
Civilians collected the parts – some the size of small cars – as souvenirs.
‘At the time, our intelligence reports told of Chinese agents crisscrossing the region where the F-117 disintegrated, buying up parts of the plane from local farmers,’ says Admiral Davor Domazet-Loso, Croatia’s military chief of staff during the Kosovo war.
‘We believe the Chinese used those materials to gain an insight into secret stealth technologies... and to reverse-engineer them.’
A senior Serbian military official confirmed that pieces of the wreckage were removed by souvenir collectors, and that some ended up ‘in the hands of foreign military attaches’.
China’s military strength and sophistication has been growing rapidly in recent years. There has already been much speculation that the country could be ready to deploy its first aircraft carrier in July.
This would be 12 months earlier than American analysts had anticipated. China has denied the report.