Pictured is China's 2011 stealth fighter jet, the J-20.
OTTAWA - While Canada struggles with whether to join the big boys by buying the F-35 for the Air Force, the Chinese are developing a second stealth fighter jet.
China's J-31 took its maiden test flight on Wednesday, which concerns aerospace expert Richard Aboulafia.
"The technological military aircraft race may have taken a break after the Cold War, but it has resumed," Aboulafia, vice-president of analysis at the Teal Group Corp., said.
Aboulafia said the J-31 looks "a lot more like the real deal" to him than the J-20 - a much larger Chinese stealth jet that's further along in development.
Still, China has trouble producing its own top-notch engines, electronic warfare systems and radar for fighter jets.
That makes it tough for the communist dictatorship to develop a true fifth-generation fighter jet on par with what the F-35 is supposed to be, but Aboulafia insists the J-31 is significant.
"Even if this isn't the ultimate state of what the Chinese can achieve, it's still a definite wake-up call that they're on that path," he said.
The J-31 also bears a remarkable similarity to the American-designed F-35.
Aboulafia said that raises the question of Chinese "cyber-theft" of F-35 technology.
Despite his party's loud scepticism about Chinese investment in Canada, China's military doesn't worry NDP MP Matthew Kellway.
The House of Commons defence committee member said the issue is the purpose of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
"I presume it's not to go into air wars with the Chinese," said Kellway, adding he also questions the value of stealth technology and doesn't want Canada in an arms race.
Conservative MP and ex-fighter pilot Laurie Hawn said the J-31 doesn't worry him either.
"Why should it?" asked Hawn. "They're going to develop technology. We're developing technology in conjunction with our partners and we're going to continue on with it."