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September 25, 2017

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Defense ministry questions China's stealth capabilities

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Ministry of National Defense (MND) indirectly confirmed yesterday a lawmaker's assessment that China's research and development (R&D) capability in regards to its fifth generation fighters is doubtful.

Pictures purporting to be of the prototype J-20 stealth fighter were posted on several websites after the U.S.-based Aviation Week magazine reported that the aircraft had been undergoing taxiing tests in late December at an airfield in Chengdu, western China.

The debut of the J-20 was announced in November 2009, but Shen I-ming, deputy defense minister in charge of intelligence, answering questions from Legislator Lin Yu-fang of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) before the Legislative Yuan's Foreign and Defense Committee, said the authenticity of the photos was questionable.

Shen confirmed that China has been developing its fifth-generation fighters but said the aircraft shown in the photos do not appear to be that system.

He said Taiwan's military has been gathering information on China's development of modernized weaponry but declined to go into detail.

Shen said he agreed with Lin's assessment and previous reports from Russian news agency RIA Novosti that China's R&D capability in engines, radar and composite materials for the fifth-generation fighters "has a long way to go" before any major breakthroughs can be expected.

Local military observers have expressed concern that the Chinese stealth fighters, if they become operational, will put Taiwan's air force at a disadvantage, even if Taiwan upgrades its F-16 A/B fleet or acquires more advanced F-16 C/D fighters.

KMT Legislator Shuai Hua-min warned that regardless of China's results in developing such aircraft, there is no denying that China has been devoting a great deal of energy into its fifth generation fighters and he said Taiwan cannot afford to ignore the threat.

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