Tailless fighter-type airframe spotted at test airfield of Chinese fighter manufacturer


Chengdu Aircraft Corporation is one of the two major fighter aircraft manufacturers in China, and arguably the best known today. He has two models of native fighters in production who currently serve with the People’s Liberation Army, the J-10 single-engine medium weight fighter and the J-20 heavy stealth fighter. The J-20 still stands like the most amazing manned plane in China realization and its development as the country’s first stealth hunter continues to evolve to this day. Still, that will certainly change in the not-so-distant future, as China continues its rapid expansion of air combat capabilities and manufacturing know how. Satellite images The war zone The recent acquisition – as of October 29, 2021 – of the company’s flight test aerodrome, which is located next to its factory in the town of the same name, is one indication of this. It shows five J-20s on the ramp, 18 J-10s, a few drones, and a very unusual cell that is unlike any other.

The airfield and its surrounding infrastructure, which is in an urban area, has become somewhat famous for all the “leak” type images and video clips that have emerged from it over the past decade, depicting the latest and greatest. large Chengdu combat setups. The facility has also seen immense upgrades and expansion in recent years. Major changes to the main flight line, and everything from the rapid emergence of a new aircraft show yard to new industrial buildings, seems to be the norm. In fact, a brand new industrial area and another large group of hangars with its own airstrip are currently under construction on the northwest side of the airfield.

Obviously, keeping up with China’s voracious appetite for fighter jets translates into aggressive expansion in all directions on the airfield.

Google Earth (left) / PHOTO © 2021 PLANET LABS INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. REPRINTED BY AUTHORIZATION (Right)

What a difference nine years makes. The airfield and its surrounding infrastructure in October 2012 and October 2021. The massive expansion of the Chengdu business as a whole matches China’s expanding air combat power.

PHOTO © 2021 PLANET LABS INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. REPRINTED BY AUTHORIZATION

The constantly evolving main flight line of the Chengdu production plant airfield. J-20s, J-10s and one or two drones dot the ramp. Notice the new static aircraft park near the small lake on the left side of the image. Quite the configuration!

Tailless fighter-type airframe spotted at test airfield of Chinese fighter manufacturer

PHOTO © 2021 PLANET LABS INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. REPRINTED BY AUTHORIZATION

A huge expansion is underway on the northwest side of the airfield, which will include new individual hangars and another flight track.

The confusing cell in question appears to have first appeared in early to mid-2021, next to a self-contained hangar on the northeast side of the airfield. The hangar appeared in 2019, but was part of a much larger project to build and improve the entire northeast area of ​​the airfield and reconfigure its runway, which is offset by a taxiway along the east edge of the runway.

Tailless fighter-type airframe spotted at test airfield of Chinese fighter manufacturer

PHOTO © 2021 PLANET LABS INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. REPRINTED BY AUTHORIZATION

Tailless fighter-type airframe spotted at test airfield of Chinese fighter manufacturer

PHOTO © 2021 PLANET LABS INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. REPRINTED BY AUTHORIZATION

Another image from July 31, 2021.

As to what this thing really is, we really don’t know. It appears to be a large modified diamond-shaped delta plane shape with a relatively thin nose section. The wingspan is roughly that of a J-20, so we’re not talking about a small cell here. The most interesting thing is that this is clearly a tailless design. In fact, when I first spotted it, it immediately reminded me of the X-44 Manta concept art from years ago. It turns out, at least to our knowledge, that the X-44 Manta program never saw the light of day. The X-44 we got instead was a small in-house flying wing technology demonstrator built by Lockheed’s Skunk Works that would serve as a building block for other unmanned flying wing platforms, such than the RQ-170 Sentinel. You can read all about this unique story in these past exclusives of ours.

Tailless fighter-type airframe spotted at test airfield of Chinese fighter manufacturer

Lockheed / NASA

The X-44A Manta would use the fuselage and other components of the F-22.

Still, we can be relatively confident that at least one – and, more likely, several – models of tailless tactical combat have been smuggled in flight at some point, most likely in the 1990s and 2000s. tailless designs are manifold, the most important being a major improvement in low broadband observability over a greater number of radar types operating over a wide frequency range. It also better optimizes a stealth aircraft for a reduced radar signature from the side and rear perspectives, beyond the frontal aspect. Another feature of this design concept is better efficiency via less drag for sustained high speed dashes and sustained cruise. With a large modified delta wing, a lot of gas can be carried and there is plenty of room for a large internal weapon bay. It also simplifies a design, at least structurally, and reduces weight.

The biggest drawback is that it is much more difficult to achieve stability without a vertical tail, and handling would be reduced, although this could possibly be offset to some extent by vectoring the thrust. The mere possibility of achieving such a design is highly dependent on the advanced fly-by-wire digital flight control technology and the software behind it. But in reality, such a design would be more about range, payload, speed and low observability, not super handling. This is why some of us have been calling for such a platform for years, which fits the realities of the potential threat and America’s operational hurdles much better than optimized close range fighters to hide from X-band fire control radars and trade critical performance capabilities for less relevant handling.

These wishes will probably be finally granted in the form of the air force Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) system, and most likely the Navy’s similar initiative, too much. But even before that, a tail-less “FB-22” concept was considered in the mid-2000s, among other potential applications for such a setup. So it’s not really new, but the concept, coupled with advancements in digital flight control systems and manufacturing capabilities, is bubbling to the top when it comes to the future of tactical aviation.

Tailless fighter-type airframe spotted at test airfield of Chinese fighter manufacturer

Lockheed Martin

Theoretical NGAD design by Lockheed Martin. Almost all renderings of a next-gen air dominance concept by all U.S. corporations and the USAF so far feature tailless designs.

An unmanned setup like this could provide the J-20 with a highly logical, efficient and powerful system. “Loyal winger” unmanned aerial combat vehicle (UCAV). The USAF applied very similar designs in its own concept art and China is known to pursue other designs for the unmanned team, also. Such an aircraft could also be used independently as own semi-autonomous UCAV, too much.

Tailless fighter-type airframe spotted at test airfield of Chinese fighter manufacturer

USAF

Notional designs of loyal wigmen presented by the USAF.

While the design of a tailless fighter or UCAV is indeed the concept reflected in the airframe that we see in satellite images, that does not mean that it is fit for flight. Quite the contrary could be true. It can be a mockup of a configuration being pursued or an ignored configuration. It could also be a radar cross section model for test the design radar signature. In fact, it looks suspiciously like a radar cross section test. model we saw recently in a US radar cross section test facility. It can also be something quite different.

So as it stands, this is an intriguing development, but we’ll need to see more of this article to really understand the intent behind it. Yet even though it is a sort of mockup, it is not surrounded by other mockups. Something about this is unique.

Contact the author: [email protected]


Source link

Previous EDITORAL: Stricter Security Protocols Needed For Film Industry | Opinion
Next SNP MP warns of delays in setting up UK-EU assembly slowing response to Brexit issues