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Days After Warning India, China's Stealth Fighter Jet Spotted In Tibet

Days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi travels to China for the G-20 summit, an image has appeared of China's first stealth fighter, the J-20, reportedly at the Daocheng Yading airport in the high-altitude Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture which lies to the east of Arunachal Pradesh.

The image of the stealth fighter, one of Beijing's most closely guarded military projects, appeared on Twitter and on two defence websites and, days after China warned India against deploying the supersonic BrahMos missile along the Himalayas. The Indian Army rejected those concerns, telling Media, "Our threat perceptions and security concerns are our own, and how we address these by deploying assets on our territory should be no one else's concern."

Interestingly, PM Modi holds talks tomorrow in Vietnam, a country with a stated interest in the BrahMos missile, which can strike targets on land and at sea more than 290 km away. Ahead of the PM's departure, Ministry of External Affairs officials said India and Vietnam enjoy a robust relationship and India is prepared to look at any matter that comes up in bilateral talks.

The image of the J-20 shows the fighter covered in tarpaulin at the Daocheng Yading airport, which is located at an altitude of more than 14,000 feet, making it the world's highest civilian airport. The deployment of the J-20 to the air base also shows that the fighter can operate from extreme high-altitude air fields, where the reduced density of air severely restricts the amount of fuel and ordnance that can be carried when the aircraft takes off.

The Chinese Chengdu J-20 is a twin engine fighter with stealth features which enable it to sometimes go undetected by radar, an enormous advantage in air combat over conventional fighter jets which can be tracked on radar. The supersonic J-20 is thought to have gone into low-rate production this January after first being spotted at the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute in December 2010. The jet flew for the first time in January 2011. Since then, new variants of the jet have appeared with modified design-features to accommodate what is thought to be a larger engine.

India does not operate any stealth aircraft at present. The Indo-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) being co-developed by Sukhoi is still several years from entering service with the Indian Air Force and the indigenous Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) is still not off the drawing boards.

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