WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- U.S. defense and aviation experts are downplaying photographs that appear to suggest China has developed a stealth aircraft.
The images of an aircraft bearing a superficial resemblance to the latest U.S stealth designs, published on a number of Internet Web sites, show it on a taxi run, the BBC reported Thursday.
Beijing has not commented on whether the pictures are genuine, the BBC said.
The deputy head of China's air force, General He Weirong, said in late 2009 the country's stealth fighter would be ready sometime between 2017 and 2019, but U.S. director of naval intelligence Vice Adm. David Dorsett said it would be "years" before China's new fighter would be operational.
"Developing a stealth capability with a prototype and then integrating that into a combat environment is going to take some time," he said.
The leaked photos of the prototype aircraft were said to have been taken at the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute.
America's Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is the world's only operational stealth fighter, but Russia is also known to be working on a prototype.