After two weeks of hot debates whether China’s J-20 fighter is real or virtual, the mystery was solved today at Chengdu, as the new J-20 took off on 12:50 Beijing time on its first 18 minute test flight. The J-20 was followed by two J-10 escort planes on its flight. Defense Update will continue providing photos, video and updating details as they become available online.

Since the J-20 sudden appearance western defense analysts and generals doubted the Chinese ability to develop such a plane, nevertheless fly it, and commented that even if such plane would fly, it will be years away from becoming a potential threat. However, today’s flight substantiates the claims that China could have passed the technological barrier enabling the country to develop advanced military aircraft.

The J-20 landing back at Chengdu after the short maiden flight.

Moreover, flying the new prototype on the same day as U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates is visiting China could hardly be taken as a peaceful welcome – It seems that China’s pragmatic approach to bilateral defense relations with the U.S. has turned into a hard line, building on Beijing’s growing self confidence in its military and economical power and the narrowing of its military gap with the United States…

The aircraft was unveiled unofficially two weeks ago, as enthusiasts were allowed to watch and take photos of the new plane conducting ground inspections and high speed taxi tests prior to its first flight today. The unusual loosening of security restrictions enabled the Chinese authorities to create a ‘buzz’ without officially discussing the new development or its strategic implications.

A collage of images taken by Chinese aviation enthusiasts showing the J-20 'Black Silk' 5th Generation stealth fighter flying a low level flypast over Chengdu on the end of its maiden flight, today at 13:50 Beijing time. Photos via
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