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Adm Davor Domazet-Loso, Croatia's army chief of employee at the time, cases Chinese agents took components of a downed F-117 stealth jet in 1999.
Nighthawks were the world's first stealth fighters - planes that are nearly invisible to radar.
When the F-117 to be shot down in 1999 throughout Nato bombing, it to be the very first time among the jets had been hit.
Military officials and also experts say they believe that some of the parts uncovered themselves in Chinese hands, which enabled China to replicate them to develop comparable technologies.
"At the time, our intelligence reports told of Chinese agents criss-crossing the an ar where the F-117 disintegrated, to buy up components of the aircraft from regional farmers," Adm Domazet-Loso told the connected Press news agency.
"We think the Chinese supplied those products to obtain an understanding into secret stealth technologies... And also to reverse-engineer them," he said.
A an elderly Serbian army official shown that few of the pieces were removed by souvenir collectors, and that some finished up "in the hand of foreign military attaches".
Alexander Neill, head that the Asia defense Programme in ~ the imperial United solutions Institute, said the proposition was highly possible, together Serbia and China had actually a very close relationship throughout this time and also routinely shared intelligence.
"At the time the Chinese had actually a close partnership with Serbian armed forces intelligence and in the regard - simply as an intelligence-sharing relationship - a windfall such as a F-117 would be gold dust, and any modernising army worth the salt would research anything of the nature exceptionally closely," that told the vxcialistoufjg.com.
He claimed it would certainly be very complicated to know for sure, yet that China had throughout that time a "rapacious appetite" for an innovation which would help them with their modernisation programme.
"Given the history of Chinese espionage, that is clear the China has had a an extremely covert history of acquisition," that said.
Parts of the F-117 wreckage, including its left wing, cockpit canopy, ejection seat, pilot's helmet and radio, are on show at Belgrade's aviation museum.
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Zoran Milicevic, deputy manager of the museum, said: "I don't understand what occurred to the rest of the plane. A most delegations visited us in the past, including the Chinese, Russians and also Americans. Yet no-one showed any type of interest in taking any component of the jet."
China's Chengdu J-20 stealth jet is supposed to it is in operational part time between 2017 and also 2019.
Some experts have asserted this authorize of military strength will worry the us government, yet the Pentagon has played down involves over the fighter.
"Developing a stealth ability with a prototype and then complete that into a combat atmosphere is going to take part time," us director the naval intelligence Vice-Admiral David Dorsett said earlier this month.
China's main military budget plan quadrupled between 1999 and also 2009 together the country's economy grew. In 2010 the stood in ~ $78bn (£50bn).