12 Jan 2011

Test flight of stealth fighter held by China

6:03 am on 12 January 2011

China has carried out its first test flight of a prototype stealth fighter jet.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates says the test flight was confirmed to him by President Hu Jintao during a meeting in Beijing.

The 15-minute flight took place on Tuesday in Chengdu. Images of the aircraft have appeared on several Chinese websites.

Mr Hu said that the flight had not been timed to coincide with the visit by Mr Gates.

The BBC reports the United States is currently the only nation with a fully operational stealth plane.

But both Russia and China are known to be working on prototypes of stealth fighters, which are invisible to radar.

China says it expects the stealth plane to be operational some time between 2017 - 2019.

Earlier this month the Pentagon played down concerns over the fighter.

China's official military budget quadrupled between 1999 - 2009 as the country's economy grew. In 2010 it was $US78 billion.

The BBC reports the US defence budget is just over $US700 billion.