Which countries would the F 117 have

Topic overview

The J-20 stealth bomber, first presented by China around a year ago, could have been developed with the help of US technology. In 1999 a US jet was shot down over Serbia during the Balkans War. Some of the wreckage of the F-117 Nighthawk was removed by people living near the crash site - and apparently fell into the hands of China.

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This was reported by the AP news agency after interviews with Croatian and Serbian military. The US stealth bomber was shot down by a Serbian anti-aircraft missile on March 27, 1999. It was the first time that such a machine was hit in combat - the Pentagon spoke of clever tactics and sheer luck at the time. The pilot was able to save himself with the ejection seat.

AP / Vladimir Dimitrijevic Tanjug

Wreckage of the bomber shot down over Serbia

Serbia confirmed that parts of the wreck had been carried away by souvenir hunters and that some of them "fell into the hands of foreign military attaches".

Bought rubble from farmers?

"Our secret services reported at the time of Chinese agents who combed the region of the crash and bought parts of the plane from local farmers," said Croatian admiral Davor Domazet Loso. He also suspects that the debris gave the Chinese insights into stealth technology.

Military expert Zoran Kusovac says the government of the Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic has regularly shared captured Western material with its Russian and Chinese allies. "And the destroyed F-117 was at the top of the Russian and Chinese wish-lists." A few weeks after the shooting down, the Chinese embassy in Belgrade was bombed by NATO - "accidentally", as the US military assures to this day.

Leftovers in the museum

Other parts of the machine such as the left wing, the roof of the cockpit, the ejection seat and the pilot's helmet ended up in the Belgrade Aviation Museum. Its deputy director Zoran Milicevic doesn't know where the rest of the plane has gone. Delegations from China, Russia and the USA have already visited the museum. However, they did not show any interest in taking the exhibits with them.

Reuters / Kyodo

The Chinese J-20 (above) compared to the US Air Force's F-22 Raptor

First test during Gates visit

China's new stealth fighter jet reportedly made its maiden flight on January 11, of all things, during the visit of then US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to Beijing. State media released photos showing the J-20 jet over southwest Sichuan province.

According to Japanese reports, the prototype of the J-20 was only recently completed. According to experts, however, the fighter jet will only be ready for use in several years. When asked about the stealth jet, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, told journalists in Beijing that China was pursuing a defensive defense policy. With the development of science and technology, all countries modernized their military equipment. "That's just normal."

Gates said he was "concerned" about the jet's first flight and highlighted the importance of the Washington-Beijing dialogue. The project took even the American secret service by surprise, as Gates admitted before his visit to Beijing.

Russia and Iran also want stealth bombers

The F-117 Nighthawk was the first fighter jet with working stealth technology and was used until 2008. The US Army is now relying on the F-22 Raptor from the US manufacturer Lockheed Martin and the B-2 bomber, which is considered the showpiece of the US armed forces. The F-35 jet is regarded as a hope for the future, but the expensive development has recently caused problems.

Russia has been working on a stealth bomber for decades. The MiG 1.44, however, never went into series production, the Suchoi T-50, in a sense the successor model, had its maiden flight in January 2010 - four years late. Here, too, experts suspect that the downed US machine was the "godfather".

A few months ago, Russia and India agreed to jointly design a stealth aircraft for their armed forces. In February 2010, the Iranian military again claimed to have successfully tested a stealth aircraft. Israel ordered 20 F-35 stealth bombers from Lockheed Martin last year. The delivery should take place between 2015 and 2017.