China's newest stealth fighter was surprisingly unveiled Tuesday as two Chengdu J-20 twin-engine prototypes flew at an airshow in Zhuhai in front of a cheering crowd. According to US officials, Washington is actually deserving of the applause. They believe Chinese hackers stole data on America's F-35 and F-22 fighter jets to help build the J-20, in the works since 2011 and scheduled to take to the sky around 2018. The J-20—which China claims can detect the F-22, per Popular Mechanics—certainly looks like its US counterparts and could potentially overpower them in number. But one analyst suspects it won't be as stealthy or as quick, based on a visual inspection and China's issues with engines, per NBC News.
The jet will have the "sacred mission of safeguarding national sovereignty, security, and territorial integrity," says a Chinese military rep. Of concern to the US, however, is how the jet will be used amid territorial disputes in the South China Sea. "It gives China a modern long-range strike capability that is able to carry much heavier payloads into areas of the Pacific and South China Sea that it was previously unable to reach in an effective manner," says an analyst. US Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein certainly didn't seem too worried in August, though. "It's no longer about a [single aircraft], it's about a family of systems and it's about a network, and that's what gives us an asymmetric advantage," he said when asked about the J-20. (Read more China stories.)