Chinese Fighter Technology Matures, While Missile Forces Modernize

China’s investments in stealth aircraft have yet to mature them to the point of operational use, but its spending on ballistic missile capabilities appears to have progressed them significantly, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia David Helvey told reporters on Monday. Indications are that both the J-20 and J-31 fighter variants, which have undergone flight testing, remain in the “prototype phase,” and have not progressed to the point they are exercising in even a limited role, he said during a briefing on the Pentagon’s newly issued 2013 annual report to Congress on China’s military capabilities. Intelligence estimates suggest that the two variants will have “no effective capability” before 2018, he said. However, China’s continued investments in medium-range ballistic missile forces appear to be paying off, as this year’s report indicates that the Chinese are now fielding the DF-21D and other modern ballistic missiles in limited numbers, he said. Helvey also noted that China conducted a “significant number” of space launches in 2012, to include information-gathering satellites as well as navigation satellites that can support operations of weapons, such as the DF-21. In total, China had 18 space launches in 2012, including missions to place six Beidou navigation satellites in orbit, states the report. (China report; caution, large-sized file.) (Helvey transcript)