Wendell Minnick

Pictures of a new stealth fighter, the J-21 and/or J-31, showed up on time for the visit of US Defense secretary Leon Panetta to China, writes defense specialist Wendell Minnick in Defense News.

Wendell Minnick:

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.

More in Defense News.

Wendell Minnick is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.

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