China's stealth drone was recently tested for the first time, the nation's state-run media reported on Friday. The Chinese call the aircraft their "Sharp Sword."
The drone is intended for "long endurance" surveillance missions, Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the US-based think tank International Assessment and Strategy Center, told Agence France-Presse
"This demonstrates the enormous investment that China is making toward building a world class level of military power," Fisher told the AFP, adding that its existence "will greatly complicate the defense" of other countries, including Japan and the US.
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Though the sleek, grey, unmanned aircraft appears to resemble an American combat drone, its jet engine appears to be exposed, which is not the case with the U.S. version, the Kanwa Defense Review Monthly noted. It was developed by two subsidiaries of Aviation Industry Corp of China, the country's top aircraft manufacturer, according to China Daily.
The news comes just months after China deployed a new bomber equipped with long-range cruise missiles
reportedly capable of reaching Hawaii and Guam.
Additionally in October, China publicly displayed its first fleet of nuclear submarines
, which experts say is a sign of the communist nation's growing military prowess.
The test of the new stealth drone also comes just weeks after Japan claimed a drone had flown near East China Sea islands – a group of small islands located just northeast of Taiwan. China has long disputed Japan's control over the islands, which dates all the way back to 1895.
In July, Japan scrambled fighter jets in response to a Chinese military flyover
through international airspace in close proximity to the islands.
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China's "Sharp Sword" drone appeared to further ratchet up the apparent military tension between the two Asian nations.
"The successful flight shows the nation has again narrowed the air-power disparity between itself and Western nations," the China Daily newspaper said, adding the flight made China the "fourth power... capable of putting a stealth drone into the sky."
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