The buzz on the Web today is all about leaked photos of China's new military toy, the J-20 stealth fighter jet. Both military enthusiasts and China observers are intrigued by the J-20 and eager for details.
Hard information is difficult to come by, since there are conflicting reports out of China on what might be the country's first fifth-generation fighter. Here's what we do know about the new stealth aircraft:
1. It's still being tested
The prototype J-20 was allegedly tested today on a runway in central China. It still has to be tested in the air, but observers think that that could happen soon -- maybe even Thursday.
2. China seems to want us to know that they have it
Pictures allegedly showing the J-20 were apparently leaked to some Chinese media this week, either by authorities or by people who sneaked in to see the plane. But it hardly seems like a coincidence that this news comes just ahead of U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' visit to Beijing, scheduled to begin Sunday.
3. It will be years before it's operational
This is just the first J-20, and it could be a long time before they work the kinks out and others are made, skeptics say. Some even think that the plane shown in the pictures is just a mock-up. It could be 2018 or even later before the plane is ready to be deployed.
4. It's bigger than the U.S. stealth planes
From the pictures, it looks like the J-20 may be larger than the U.S. stealth planes. Some speculate that that would allow it to carry more and fly longer. But it probably still won't be able to compete with the F-22 Raptor, the United States' fifth-generation stealth plane.
5. It's part of China's new military
The country has apparently been investing heavily in new military equipment so it can remain competitive with the United States and Russia. According to reports, China has an aircraft carrier in the works and is also developing anti-ship ballistic missiles.