The first clear pictures of what appears to be a Chinese stealth fighter prototype have been published online, highlighting China's military buildup just days before US Defense Secretary Robert Gates heads to Bejiing to try to repair defense ties, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. The photographs, published on several unofficial defense-related websites, appear to show a J-20 prototype making a high-speed taxi test -- usually one of the last steps before an aircraft makes its first flight -- according to experts on aviation and China's military.
The exact origin of the photographs is unclear, although they appear to have been taken at the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute, where the J-20 is in development, in western China.
A few experts have suggested the pictured aircraft is a mock-up, rather than a functioning prototype of a stealth fighter -- so-called because it is designed to evade detection by radar and infrared sensors.
But a majority of experts consulted say they believe the pictures and the aircraft are authentic, giving the strongest indication yet that Beijing is making faster-than-expected progress in developing a rival to the US F-22 -- the world's only fully operational stealth fighter.
Read more: Wall Street Journal