Images of what is believed to be China's next generation military aircraft were released and then taken off the internet fuelling speculation that they may be actual pictures of what has been dubbed as the J-20 fighter. This is the Chinese version of the American stealth F-22 Raptor and the Russo-Indian T-50.
With the Russo-Indian fifth generation stealth fighter project now officially launched, post Russian president Dmitry Medvedev's visit to India in December, it should be clear that it was only a matter of time before China would make moves to announce its own presence in a crucial area of military technology.
While the Americans already have a serving model in the F-22 Raptor, and have also made available a differently configured F-35 available for export to their allies, the Russo-Indian Sukhoi-designed T-50 PAK-FA/FGFA version is due to enter service in the 2015-17 period. Amongst the existing military powers of the world it was only China that had to show it too had a presence in what is considered to be one of the most critical areas of military technology today.
The speculation that the images may have been genuine gained in credence as the photos were prominently featured in the Global Times, an official Chinese newspaper. Given China's strict government censorship of the media its appearance in a government publication made it clear that the release of the images were intentional.
Aviation websites claimed the photos were taken from outside a fence at the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute's airfield in south-western China.
Preliminary analysis of the J-20 photos reveals it to be larger than similar Russian or US versions and if the images are not fakes then such dimensions planes should allow the model to fly farther and carry a heavier weapon load.