Signaling a greater-than-ever military threat to Taiwan, new information emerged this week showing that China might be much further ahead in its development of a fifth-generation fighter aircraft than previously believed.
In what has caused a major stir within the Pentagon, Beijing Internet censors earlier this week allowed high-resolution photographs of the Chengdu Aircraft Corp stealth fighter to be published for the first time.
“For Taiwan, this means that even a sale of the latest versions of the Lockheed Martin F-16 will only provide a brief period of technical parity with the People’s Liberation Army,” Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Washington, told the Taipei Times.
Fisher said it was now possible China could deploy significant numbers of the fifth-generation fighters — codenamed the Chengdu J-20 — within 10 years.
“There is now even greater reason for Taiwan to consider shifting its air defense resources to the more survivable short take-off fifth-generation F-35B, with modifications that increase its air combat potential,” he said. “Today, it is doubly tragic for Taiwan that Washington does not appear to be willing to sell either fighter to Taipei. Such a lack of resolve by Washington will only hasten the military confrontation it has successfully deterred since the Korean War.”
Taiwan is urgently pressing US President Barack Obama to sell it 66 advanced versions of the F-16, but with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) scheduled to visit Washington later this month, a sale is unlikely to be approved anytime soon.
Credible sources claim China could build at least 300 J-20s.
Aviation Week and Space Technology reported that China has begun flight-testing the J-20, which puts it only a few years behind the troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is being developed by the US and a coalition of countries.
While it is possible that the newly released photographs of the J-20 are fakes, most US analysts believe them to be the real thing.
One military analyst said the plane had a chiseled front--section, triangular wings, all-moving tail-planes and seemed to combine the front fuselage of the US’ F-22 with the back half of the Russian T-50 stealth prototype.
“The J-20’s appearance could signal a big step forward for the Chinese air force, which to date relies mostly on airplanes bought from Russia or reverse--engineered from Russian or Israeli designs,” an analyst said.
Judging from the photographs, the J-20 is at least 21m from nose to tail, which means it would have a lower “supercruise” performance and agility than the F-22. However, with larger weapon bays and more fuel, it would have a longer range and carry more arms.
US military sources told the Taipei Times that China may be getting Russian help with the J-20 and that Moscow may be supplying 14.5 tonne thrust 117S engines for the plane, which is expected to double as a bomber.
Fisher said the J-20 could “supercruise,” or fly supersonically, for extended periods without using fuel-guzzling afterburners.
One commentator, writing on the Aviation Week and Space Technology Web site, said the new plane was “something to hang out at 50,000 feet [15.2km] over the Taiwan Strait with a large downward looking radar and serve up a large payload of AAM’s [air-to-air missiles] at anything underneath.”
Dean Cheng (成斌) of the Heritage Foundation think tank has linked the unexpected leak of the J-20 photographs with news earlier in the week that China had reached initial operational capability with a ballistic missile that may be capable of hitting and sinking an aircraft carrier, and reports that Beijing would soon launch a refurbished former Soviet aircraft carrier.
“All of these news items serve to underscore that China’s military development has proceeded more rapidly than many had expected and all of these military efforts are occurring without any pressing military threat to China’s borders or interests,” Cheng said.
“The US should never be afraid to engage the PRC [People’s Republic of China], but neither should it give the Chinese the impression that Washington is dealing with them out of fear. Only a consistent national security policy, including a sustained US presence in the region, can do that,” he said.
INVASION: Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said: ‘A Taiwan emergency is a Japanese emergency, and therefore an emergency for the Japan-US alliance’ Japan and the US could not stand by if China attacked Taiwan, and Beijing needs to understand this, former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said yesterday. Speaking virtually to a forum organized by Taiwanese think tank the Institute for National Policy Research, Abe said that the Senkaku Islands — known as the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) in Taiwan — the Sakishima Islands and Yonaguni Island are only about 100km from Taiwan. An invasion of Taiwan would be a grave danger to Japan, he said. “A Taiwan emergency is a Japanese emergency, and therefore an emergency for the Japan-US alliance. People in Beijing, [Chinese] President
‘BADGE OF HONOR’: Lithuanian lawmaker Dovile Sakaliene, who is on China’s travel ban list, said delegation members joked that they would be joining her on it soon A delegation led by the chairman of the Lithuanian Parliamentary Group for Relations with Taiwan yesterday arrived in Taipei to participate in a conference on democracy later this week. The group, led by Matas Maldeikis, a Lithuanian lawmaker and an outspoken critic of China, touched down at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at 6:18am yesterday. Maldeikis said at the airport that he expected the trip to enhance understanding between Taiwan and Lithuania after cooperation between the two sides took a big step forward this past year. “This trip will be another step in understanding each other because we are dealing with the same challenges,”
GET A BOOST: After considering the potential for local outbreaks amid an increase in cases abroad, a committee recommended adolescents receive their second shots The level 2 COVID-19 alert is to be extended until Dec. 13, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced yesterday, as it advised people in six high-risk groups to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot. It also recommended that adolescents aged 12 to 17 who had a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine receive a second shot. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that the nationwide level 2 alert would remain in place for two more weeks from today. Chen said that during New Year’s events eating and drinking might be allowed in designated areas, while
‘HISTORIC’: The passage of the resolution by both chambers of the French parliament shows their concrete support for Taiwan’s global participation, the foreign ministry said The government yesterday thanked the French National Assembly for adopting a resolution on Monday in support of Taiwan’s international participation, following a similar resolution passed by the French Senate in May. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs praised the resolution’s passage as “historic” and as demonstrating the concrete support of both chambers of the French parliament for Taiwan’s participation in international affairs. Taiwan and France have shared a long-standing partnership characterized by a high level of trust, and based on the shared values of democracy, freedom and human rights, the ministry said. Passed on Monday in a 39-2 vote with three abstentions, the non-legally