Sat, Feb 05, 2011 - Page 4 News List

PRC stealth-jet firm eyes US deals

AFP, BEIJING

The maker of China’s new stealth fighter plans to team up with a small California firm for what would seem like mission impossible: bidding for US defense contracts, the Wall Street Journal said yesterday.

China Aviation Industry Corp (AVIC) is in talks with US Aerospace about joining forces to seek contracts for projects that could include supplying helicopters used by the US president, the Journal said.

The report quoted unidentified sources close to the discussions.

The idea appears far-fetched. Previous Chinese moves to enter strategic US sectors have been thwarted after arousing intense political opposition.

That is sure to occur if any Chinese involvement in the defense industry is suggested, especially given growing US concern about China’s expanding armed forces.

A prototype of China’s first stealth fighter — AVIC’s J-20 — made its maiden flight last month, shocking observers and underlining the rapid development of China’s military capability.

The plane, unveiled during a visit to China by US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, is seen as a future rival to the US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor, currently the world’s only fully operational next-generation stealth fighter jet.

AVIC is discussing with US Aerospace the possibility of offering the AC-313 — China’s largest domestically produced helicopter — for the next generation of aging Marine One helicopters, which are used to transport the president, the Journal quoted sources as saying. They also may put forward AVIC’s L-15 training jet to replace the US air force’s fleet of Northrop T-38s, it said.

Reports have suggested the Chinese stealth jet may have been made with technology from a US plane shot down in 1999 by Serbian forces during the Kosovo war, but a Chinese defense official has rejected that.

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