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US mocks China's stealth jets, and how!

Last updated on: February 18, 2011 12:55 IST

US mocks China's stealth jets, and how!

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Despite its latest test flight of stealth jets, China still has a "long road" to travel before it actually deploys the J-20 fighter in good numbers, America's top defence official has said, asserting that the United States will maintain a much bigger fleet for years.

The buzz around China's military buildup notwithstanding, the US will continue to have a clear lead in its fleet of top-end fighter planes, Defence Secretary Robert Gates told lawmakers.

"I think China has got a long road in front of them before this becomes a serious operational aircraft in any numbers," Gates said testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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Image: A Chinese stealth fighter is seen in Chengdu, Sichuan province
Photographs: Reuters
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When I was in China, Chinese President Hu Jintao rolled out the red carpet and the People's Liberation Army rolled out the J-20. They may have flight-tested it half a year, a year or so before our intelligence estimated they would," Gates said, but quickly added that it will be quite a while before they have any numbers of the jets.

He pointed out that the latest estimates on the Chinese side would be that by 2020 they might have 50 J-20 jets deployed and by 2025 an estimated 200.

"We will have 325 F-35s by the end of 2016, even under the revised programme, which gives us over 500 fifth-generation aircraft. We'll have 850 F-35s or fifth-generation aircraft by 2020 and about 1,500 by 2025," Gates said. He said there is still a "huge disparity" between the two countries in this area.

Image: An aircraft reported to be a Chinese stealth fighter is seen in Chengdu, Sichuan province
Photographs: Reuters
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However, at an interaction with foreign journalists, Admiral Robert Willard, commander of the Pacific Command, said China has a formidable ballistic missile capability that has grown for two decades. "To comment broadly on the proliferation of ballistic missile capability within China, certainly they have a formidable ballistic missile capability that has continued to grow for the past couple of decades. And we watch over this very carefully," Willard said.

"The idea that in combination with other dimensions of PLA capabilities that this could constitute a broader anti-access or area-denial threat to the region, be that Japan or the Philippines or their neighbours Vietnam or the Republic of Korea, can become a regional concern," Willard said.

He said it was important for China to be open and prepared for dialogue with the US and other countries in the region with
regard to the developments and its intentions.

Image: China is expanding its military prowess increasing the lethality of its short-range ballistic missiles
Photographs: David Gray/Reuters
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