Chinese Stealth Fighter Makes First Flight
J-20 makes maiden flight during Robert Gates visit
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 11, 2011 3:41 AM CST
Updated Jan 11, 2011 6:00 AM CST
A prototype of the Chinese J-20 stealth plane is seen during a runway test in Chengdu, southwest China.    (AP Photo/Kyodo News)
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(Newser) China's new stealth fighter has made its first flight just hours before Defense Secretary Robert Gates was to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao. The laser-evading J-20 prototype flew for about 15 minutes over an airfield in the southwestern city of Chengdu, AP reports. Though likely some years away from being fully operational, the J-20 is a potential rival to America's F-22 Raptor, the only stealth fighter currently in service.

The J-20's true capabilities are still unknown, although analysts believe it will be enough to undermine the Taiwanese air force's current advantages over China. Pentagon officials traveling with Gates had no immediate comment on the apparent show of force from China, the New York Times reports. En route to Beijing, Gates had questioned just how stealthy the J-20 really is.