New Chinese Fighter Photos "Leaked"

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China has apparently unveiled a second fifth-generation fighter prototype that looks like an F-22 Raptor but may also be designed for carrier operations. Photos appeared online earlier this week that show an aircraft whose lineage seems to be derived from the Raptor with some shirt-tail relationship to the F-35. It's a twin, with the angled vertical stabilizers and big fully articulating horizontal stabs. It's not clear if the aircraft, likely a development project of the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, has flown but the timing of the "leak" appears to suggest a little chest-thumping on the part of the Chinese to coincide with a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

In January of 2011, the Chinese publicized test flights of another advanced fighter, the Chengdu Aviation Corporation's J-20, to coincide with a visit by then SecDef Robert Gates. The Wall Street Journal thinks that might mean there's a competition between Chengdu and Shenyang for the contract. Observers have also spotted a double nosewheel on the latest design, which they say suggests it's designed for carriers. The Chinese will soon commission their first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.