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China’s Aircraft Development? Deja Vu?

Written by on Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

There’s a saying that “imitation is the highest form of flattery” and this is certainly the case when referring to the aircraft design of the Chinese. To say that China designs are “influenced” by the U.S. design might be a huge understatement…

The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) design by Lockheed Martin was originally conceived in the late 1990’s and as it marched along its somewhat laborious development phase, a very remarkably similar design was debuted by the Chinese in 2012. The stealth shape and mold lines of the J31 are amazingly characteristic of the JSF and its canted rudders, length, width and performance might be a bit familiar.

 

J31 Stealth Fighter

 

Also, the Wing Loong or “Pterodactyl”, unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) was recently unveiled at the Zhuhai airshow and once again, its shape and layout are reminiscent of the U.S. Reaper design built by General Atomics. The Reaper was conceived as a follow-on to the Predator design that was intended to advance the role of UAVs by carrying weapons on hard points on the wing. Like the Reaper, the Wing Loong can carry weapons of various types to include: the BA-7 semi-active, laser guided, air-to-ground missile: LS-6/50 kilogram miniature guided bomb: and the YZ-102A precision-guided bomb and YZ-121 laser guided bomb.

 

Wing Loong UCAV

 

Given the complexity of aircraft design and the costs of developing an aircraft from the ground up, it’s not surprising that the Chinese have mimicked U.S. designs. Stealth design is becoming standard for most new front-line fighters and to expect the Chinese to take advantage of previous work would be anticipated. In addition, starting from scratch with UCAV design doesn’t always support limited budgets for development and testing, so it’s actually fairly smart to pursue a design that is already proven. For the U.S. it’s difficult to learn that a country has largely kept pace with the design effort and investment for a fraction of the effort.

 

Reaper UCAV

 

 

If you want advice about the world of military aviation, there’s no better people to turn to than men and women who have sat in the cockpit and flown some of the world’s most advanced aircraft. With over 50 current and ex-warfighters on call, Strike Fighter Consulting Inc. can give you access to up-to-date, first-hand technical and tactical expertise.

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