China has once again used its bloggers—possibly belonging to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)—to indicate to the world in general and to the US in particular that it successfully carried out the second test flight of its J-20 Stealth aircraft—still under development—on April 17,2011, from the Chengdu military airport in the Sichuan province.
The Chinese authorities, who have not yet made an official announcement of the successful flight, used the same procedure as they did during its maiden flight in January to let the world know of their success—they apparently alerted a group of bloggers around the Chengdu military airport about the impending flight and encouraged them to cover the flight through postings of their visual observations in their blogs.
Why do the Chinese use the bloggers for announcing the flights instead of doing so officially? A convincing answer to this question is not available. One reason could be to maintain the deniability of any possible failures”¦
A detailed report carried by the Party-controlled “Global Times” on April 19, 2011, on the flight is annexed. According to the bloggers, who had timed the two flights of J-20, whereas the first flight in January lasted only 20 minutes, the second flight on April 17 lasted about 85 minutes. It took off at 4-25 PM and landed at 5-50 PM.
Why do the Chinese use the bloggers for announcing the flights instead of doing so officially? A convincing answer to this question is not available. One reason could be to maintain the deniability of any possible failures, but that is not a convincing answer. If they don’t encourage any leaks of impending flights the deniability of failures would be even stronger.
Are the bloggers making the postings simultaneously with the flights or after the flights have successfully ended? Since in the latest case, the flight lasted about 85 minutes it should have been possible for Western intelligence agencies, which monitor Chinese blogs, to simultaneously track the flights or to determine whether the blog postings are being made after the flights are successfully over.
According to Western experts, the J-20 has a height of 5 metres ( 5.08 in the case of the US F-22 Raptor), weight 17600 kgs ( 19700), cruising speed 2100 kph (2500 plus) and estimated unit cost US $ 110 million ( US $ 130 million ). Some US experts suspect that 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 and parts of which they allegedly managed to acquire from the locals.
Is the J-20 still at the concept demonstration stage or is it a prototype moving towards production? Many believe after studying the two tests that the Chinese are past the concept demonstration stage and are now gradually moving towards production.