NEW YORK — A Chinese citizen has been charged in New York with illegally attempting to export highly restricted material from the United States for use by China's air force, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

The criminal complaint in Brooklyn federal court accused Ming Suan Zhang, 40, of breaking US laws regulating the export of specialized carbon fiber, a light, but strong material commonly used in the military, defense and aerospace industries.

Law enforcement bodies became aware of the alleged plot earlier this year when two Taiwanese accomplices "attempted to locate large quantities of the specialized carbon fiber via remote Internet contacts," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

In July, Zhang allegedly told an accomplice: "When I place the order, I place one to two tons. However, the first shipment will be for 100 kg," the statement said.

"Shortly thereafter, Zhang contacted an undercover law enforcement agent in an effort to finalize the deal to export the carbon fiber from New York to China."

He said he had an "urgent need for the carbon fiber in connection with the scheduled test flight of a Chinese fighter plane," prosecutors said.

"Zhang then arranged a meeting with an undercover agent to take possession of a carbon fiber sample, which was to be shipped to China and analyzed to verify its authenticity. Zhang was subsequently placed under arrest."

He faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.