April 25 (UPI) -- China is developing "invisibility cloaks" that could help fighter jets evade radar, the South China Morning Post reported Wednesday.
The Hong Kong-based newspaper reported the Chinese military is developing "metamaterials" that can trick radars using radio wave-bending capabilities.
Jets previously classified as non-stealth could stand to benefit from the stealth coating that changes the way radio waves bounce off an aircraft's surface, creating either a "ghost image" or a minimized echo on a radar tracking Chinese planes.
A state laboratory in the Chinese city of Nanjing is developing the metamaterial that could pose challenges for early warning radar.
Chinese scientists previously told state media the research is only at the beginning stages and more applications are "on the way."
China has about 1,500 combat aircraft in use, and some are being tested for the new metamaterial, according to the Post.
Advancements in developing the invisibility cloaks for jets may be limited, however, according to Australia's News Corp.
Stealth extends far beyond camouflaging the skin of an aircraft, with engine fans and other parts also having a greater impact on the aircraft's radar reflectivity, according to the report.
The metamaterials might also be difficult to mass produce, even though Kuang-Chi, a technology based company in Shenzhen, stated it had begun mass production of a membrane-like substance that could be called a metamaterial.
A researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences said there is "still a lot of room for improvement" and Kuang-Chi President Liu Ruopeng has not responded to the Post confirming his claims to Chinese news site Ifeng.com
China retains about 20 J-20 stealth fighters.