China offers further clues about plans for sixth-generation fighter planes
The country is racing against the US to be the first to develop a next-generation fighter.
China has offered clues about its next-generation fighter jet with the release of computer-generated images that show a tail-less design, which analysts believe will improve its stealth capability.
The video released by the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China on Tuesday (Jan 31) showed three aircraft that resemble the fifth-generation J-20 stealth fighter but lack tails, fins or canards, a type of winglike projection.
The images also suggested that the planes would have a blended-wing body, a fixed-wing design in which there is no clear division between the main body and the wing.
A model of a plane with a similar design went on show at the Zhuhai air show in November.
Detailed plans for China’s new fighter jets remain secret, but Fu Qianshao, a Chinese military aviation analyst, told the nationalist tabloid Global Times that work had started on the next-generation fighter and designers were confident it would eventually outpace the United States.
The report also quoted unnamed analysts who said the tail-less design and blended wing body would give the next-generation fighter jet superior stealth capability in all directions compared with the fifth-generation fighter, as well giving it a longer range and greater fuel efficiency.
Wang Haifeng, the chief architect at the Chengdu Aircraft Research and Design Institute, said in 2019 that new technologies, such as lasers, adaptive engines, hypersonic weapons and swarm warfare, might also be features of the new aircraft.
The US is also working on a sixth-generation fighter, which will be a key element in its Next Generation Air Dominance programme.
Last September, the chief of the US Air Combat Command, General Mark Kelly, said the US Air Force must ensure it was the first to produce a sixth-generation fighter since China was already “on track” to produce one.
The US needed to “make sure we get to six-gen air dominance at least a month before our competitors”, Kelly said.
This article was first published on SCMP.