New pictures of the China’s J-20 Mighty Dragon stealth fighter have surfaced and are making their way across military blogs, reports Business Insider.

This newest round of photos show the J-20 performing what could be viewed as basic fighter maneuvers and suggest a degree of inflight offensive and defensive maneuverability that beats watching taxi tests at something less than freeway on-ramp speeds. “Leaked” video footage from 2011 (here and here) show little more than takeoffs and landings.

Still, for a stealth fighter, the J-20 is getting a lot of looks, perhaps testament to Beijing wanting to show the world some muscle, as well as wreak havoc on analyst estimates that China’s first strike weapon would not be fully operational until at least 2018.

As noted by Business Insider, Bill Sweetman at AviationWeek points out that for all its headway, no one is yet sure what the J-20 is for. “The fighter is large for air combat—but China, simply because of geographical factors, doesn’t face an adversary fighter force of the kind that the F-22 was designed to counter,” said Sweetman. “At the same time, the J-20 weapon bays are not large enough for most standoff air-to-surface weapons. One possibility is that the J-20 is intended to threaten intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets and tankers, by using stealth and speed to defeat their escorts.”

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Ray Kwong is senior advisor to the USC US-China Institute, a charter member of the Asian International Business Advisory Group, a Forbes contributing writer and columnist for the Hong Kong Economic Journal. He is currently facilitating talks between China and U.S. interests on such matters as clean energy economics, nanotechnology and commercial aerospace. While it sounds way cooler than it really is, he is also a member of the Bloomberg BusinessWeek Market Advisory Board and the McKinsey Quarterly Executive Panel. You can follow him on Twitter @raykwong. Eyeball Ray's posts from Forbes ChinaTalk.
Ray Kwong has 17 post(s) on Asia Security Watch