|F-60 Stealth Fighter|
American intelligence agencies recently obtained new information on China’s second new stealth fighter-bomber revealed on the Internet in the past two years, according to U.S. officials. The new jet, dubbed the F-60, is a fifth-generation warplane; a prototype was disclosed in photographs posted on two Chinese military affairs websites beginning June 21. Officials familiar with intelligence reports said the shape and design of the F-60 appears similar to the U.S. Air Force’s F-22 Raptor, the U.S. military’s most advanced stealth fighter, although it is smaller in size.
The similarities are raising concerns in counterintelligence circles that China obtained design details for its new jet from the F-22 through espionage or cyber-spying, as occurred with the Chinese compromise of F-35 data by suspected intelligence hackers several years ago.
|F-60 Stealth Fighter|
A Defense Intelligence Agency spokeswoman declined to comment on the new Chinese stealth jet. According to the U.S. officials, intelligence analysts recently conducted detailed analyses of photos that show the first prototype of the new jet being transported on the back of a flatbed truck along the Beijing-Shenyang highway under escort by vehicles and officials of the Ministry of State Security, China’s political police and intelligence service.
The new jet was shown at a rest stop during its transport during what Chinese websites said was transfer to a stress testing facility. The twin-engine jet was shown without its tail stabilizers or cockpit canopy, leading some analysts to conclude it was an L-15 trainer aircraft. However, analysis of the photos revealed that the new jet is larger in size and has different wing shapes and engine intakes than the trainer, and therefore is likely the new F-60.
No mention was made of the F-60 in recent unclassified Pentagon annual reports to Congress on China’s military. The 2011 report stated that development of the J-20 stealth jet and long-range conventional missiles “could improve the PLA’s ability to strike regional air bases, logistical facilities, and other ground-based infrastructure.” The F-60 jet is under development by the Shenyang Aircraft Corp., which analysts say lost out several years ago to the manufacturer of China’s first stealth fighter, the J-20, which is being built by the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute.
The J-20 was first shown in a test flight during the visit to China in January 2011 by then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in what was widely viewed as anti-U.S. political posturing by China’s communist government and military. Gates had canceled production of the Air Force’s F-22 months earlier claiming that large numbers of F-22s were not needed because China would not field a comparable jet until 2020. It now appears that China will have two new fifth-generation stealth fighters capable of challenging the U.S. Air Force in Asia years before the U.S. intelligence estimate of 2020.
The Pentagon considers stealth jet fighters key “anti-access, area denial” forces that China is developing as part of a strategy of forcing the U.S. military to operate further from Chinese shores. The arms have prompted a new Pentagon doctrine called the Air Sea Battle Concept that calls for new U.S. forces and upgraded alliances in Asia to better assist U.S. forces in coming to the aid of democratic friends and allies in any future conflicts in the region. Other high-tech forces being built by China for use against the United States include anti-ship ballistic missiles; anti-satellite missiles and lasers; large numbers of submarines; cyber warfare capabilities; and anti-missile defenses.
Some U.S. intelligence analysts are viewing the disclosure of the F-60 as an official leak by the Chinese military. Evidence for that view was one photo of the jet that shows an Audi A6 parked next to the truck transporting it. The parked Audi appears designed to provide foreign or domestic observers with a vehicle of known dimensions that will allow analysts to make calculations on the size and shape of the new jet. China in the past has revealed new military developments on the Internet through similar official leaks. For example, China’s new Yuan-class attack submarine was built entirely in secret until photos of the submarine appeared on the Internet in 2004. Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, a former deputy chief of staff for intelligence, said the disclosure of the new Chinese stealth jet “should not come as a surprise.”
“The PLA [air force] has a very comprehensive planning process, and may have several advanced aircraft in various stages of design and development,” Deptula told the Free Beacon. Larry Wortzel, a former Army intelligence officer, said it would be difficult to determine if the Chinese obtained secrets on the F-22 for the new jet. “We know the F-35 had a major cyber penetration,” Wortzel told the Free Beacon. “But even without a penetration, there have been enough opportunities to see F-22s to assist a manufacturer in trying to copy the external design. Xian and Shenyang were working parallel programs for stealth fighter aircraft.”