Chinese 6th generation combat aircraft projects

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A video seems to confirm that China is focusing on a project for a 6th generation combat aircraft without tail and in the form of a flying wing. Another project is also underway and concerns a strategic bomber. This article was published on February 16, 2023 in the magazine n° 2817.

A model from the Chengdu Institute of Aircraft Research and Design

In November 2022, during the last Zuhai aerospace show, Chinese aeronautical and defense companies exhibited many aircraft but also projects for future combat aircraft. Among these is a transparent model of a fighter jet under the label of the Chengdu Institute of Aircraft Research and Design which falls under the AVIC consortium. The model in question showed the interior of the plane with its various connectors, main wiring and its two engines.

However, the reduced-scale model thus presented did not seem to be accompanied by technical information, by a name or even a possible project number. And just recently, this same model was digitized in a video, confirming that China is focusing on a 6th generation fighter without a tail, using the flying wing concept. This device does not yet have a name or classifi†cation. But, according to previous statements by Chinese officials and industrialists, it could integrate conventional weapons but also laser energy weapons, hypersonic weapons or would still be able to interact with swarms of drones.

The design is a breakthrough for the Chinese aeronautical industry

The design is a breakthrough for the Chinese aeronautical industry which, without including copies of Soviet aircraft (such as the J-15, a copy of the Su-33, editor’s note), has above all developed combat aircraft using classic architectures with D-10 and D-20. Apart from the specific characteristics of this future 6th generation combat aircraft, a question arises about its armament and more generally about its doctrine of use: • will it be able to be used in a short-range air combat or will use the same doctrine for the use of the J-20 at long distance and not equipped with a cannon•?

Moreover, the flying wing concept is not only about the Chinese 6th generation combat aircraft. China is also developing a strategic bomber, called H-20, in the form of a flying wing. Information is just as scarce as for the 6th generation combat aircraft but this project seems to resemble the American B-2 Spirit bomber. It has also been the subject of several promotional videos since 2018. One of these, incidentally, resembles the promotional video for the B-21 Raider. In July 2022, announcements of an upcoming first flight had even been launched, but no official presentation or first flight has yet been made.

The 6th generation flying wing concept is not new as Lockheed Martin had previously unveiled a face-on image of two 6th generation fighter jets and, in October 2022, a device structurally resembling these two aircraft but in the process of being developed. be refueled by the tanker LMXT. Lockheed Martin is not the only American company working on a tailless NGAD since Northrop Grumman also offers a device in the form of a flying wing.

It should be noted, however, that the image also presents one (or the only one?) of the offensive capabilities of this model: it does not concern a missile or a cannon but an energy weapon (of the laser type of high intensity probably). The piloted flying wing is also announced in certain official documents of the US Air Force. However, the concept seems to include a hybrid aircraft, with a double retractable tailplane, given the spaces provided in each wing, and of identical shape to the tailplane.

Parallel companion drones

Sixth generation obliges, the Chinese design offices are also working on accompanying drones, models of which were also presented at the last China Airshow in Zhuhai. A new version of the FH-97 drone was for example on display. This variant is perhaps a turning point for the Chinese Air Force because the FH-97 seemed to be a copy of the XQ-58A Valkyrie while the FH-97A seems rather to be closer to the Boeing Australia MQ-28A Ghost drone Bat but in twin engine version.

John Walker Avatar