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Is This China's Dark Sword Stealthy UCAV?

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posted on Jun, 5 2018 @ 07:02 AM
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China has been claiming it is working on stealthy UCAVs for some time. Some are clearly demonstrators that are going nowhere, like the AVIC 601-S, what appears to be a version of the Mikoyan Skat UAV from Russia. Several others have been worked on as well, most of them with an eye towards testing flying wings and working towards what the US and Europe has done with the X-47B and the Taranis, respectively. However, something of an outlier as been the Dark Sword.



Dark Sword showed up a while back in conferences and airshows as a concept model. The Chinese were not really trying to hide it. Just weren't having a lot of folks wander into the factory where it was being built and the airstrip where it was tested. Supposedly, some time later, a subscale model was flown:



The pix of it have not been great, so I've been a bit skeptical. Not hugely so, but in this day and age of photoshop and bot based image & video manipulation, one must be a little skeptical. It would have implied the Dark Sword was really a demonstrator for a VSTOL aircraft (or UAV). We know they have been working on one. This would imply the Dark Sword was meant to test out tech associated with VSTOLs like our F-35B or the Russian Yak-141/41 or the old Harriers. Note: the coverable intake revealed in the photo.

However, today, at least in the Western militaria blogosphere, this image emerged:



I can't claim credit for the photo. This is from Rogoway, our newest love to hate aviation writer. He puts his own spin on it.

www.thedrive.com...

His take is the Dark Sword is meant to be a high performance penetrator, like the J-20 is supposed to be. And he does, correctly point out a number bits in support of that hypothesis. The presence of the canards detracts from that somewhat, but may increase maneuverability...which is an odd choice for a stealthy UCAV at this point. The shape is definitely NOT a flying wing though and looks more intended for higher speeds.

Any which way, if China starts serial manufacture, this could be very troubling. OTOH, this could also just be an X plane like what we do. That's still troublesome, but not as much as if the Chinese think this is operationally sound.

I wish we had more info. Or at least a couple more shots from different angles. Time will tell.

Thoughts everyone?




posted on Jun, 5 2018 @ 07:16 AM
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I am more concerned on China's long term goals in regards to their contention with the USA. Does China intend on inevitably controlling the entire pacific ocean? Then what?



posted on Jun, 5 2018 @ 07:26 AM
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a reply to: WarPig1939

China wants to have the same position as the world as the US does now. They seek to supplant us. If they raise their standard of living to being comparable to Americans while the US stays complacent or slips (as we have been as real incomes have been declining since the 1970s here), there's not much we can really do.

That's a topic for another part of ATS though, not the aircraft forum.



posted on Jun, 5 2018 @ 07:34 AM
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It looks like they are following the normal progression of aircraft development. Concept model to small scale flying demonstrator to full scale mock-up. Interesting it has a very similar intake to the J-10B, wonder if it uses the same power plant.
I'm guessing the last pic is a full scale mock-up since it is missing the usual markings/warnings found an an actual flying demonstrator, the forward canards don't look like they were meant to move and the people standing in front of it look more like university faculty as opposed to the military types.



posted on Jun, 5 2018 @ 08:33 AM
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Holy cow, that's one awesome looking plane.



posted on Jun, 5 2018 @ 08:40 AM
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a reply to: anzha

I do not think that second full-size (landing) photo is a UCAV at all as it seems to have a two seat cockpit.



posted on Jun, 5 2018 @ 08:46 AM
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originally posted by: Krakatoa
a reply to: anzha

I do not think that second full-size (landing) photo is a UCAV at all as it seems to have a two seat cockpit.





I don’t think that’s the cockpit. I think it has something to do with the fan mechanism for VTOL.



posted on Jun, 5 2018 @ 08:54 AM
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a reply to: Krakatoa

It's got a lift fan similar to the F-35B. That's the inlet door.



posted on Jun, 5 2018 @ 09:04 AM
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originally posted by: Zaphod58
a reply to: Krakatoa

It's got a lift fan similar to the F-35B. That's the inlet door.


So the front landing gear is in the middle of the lift fan?

That doesn't sound right to me. Also, the first mockup photo does not have any outlines indicating any lift fan VTOL panels at all. Where does it say this is also a VTOL UCAV?



posted on Jun, 5 2018 @ 09:58 AM
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My very uninformed opinion:

1) neither mock-up looks like VTOL, closer to something intended to do Mach 3 or above.

2) the canards look retractable, more like what the F-14 was supposed to have but with more range of motion? The F-14's weren't meant to move around correct?

3) the small scale model looks like both the canards and wings could retract but the larger mock-up looks like more conventional wings, can't tell about the canards so I'll stick with my guess on #2

4) The landing photo looks like an F-15's air brake & less like a fan door. Maybe dual purpose



posted on Jun, 5 2018 @ 10:01 AM
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a reply to: Krakatoa

I don't think it is a VTOL airframe at all. It looks like antennas like the MQ-9 has with a large air brake like the F-15 has.






edit on 5-6-2018 by Sammamishman because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 5 2018 @ 10:01 AM
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a reply to: Krakatoa

It looks like they're using ducting. The fan itself will be above where the gear is and it will exhaust below behind the gear. That's actually not a bad idea, since it puts most of the weight over the gear when it's on the ground.
edit on 6/5/2018 by Zaphod58 because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 5 2018 @ 11:24 AM
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originally posted by: Sammamishman
a reply to: Krakatoa

I don't think it is a VTOL airframe at all. It looks like antennas like the MQ-9 has with a large air brake like the F-15 has.







Looking at the zoomed in comparison, I think you are right, antennae. I still disagree it is evidence of a ducted fan in the design. I mean, that photo has the air brake deployed. Why would it deploy that if it was in a state where the VTOL fan was in operation?



posted on Jun, 5 2018 @ 11:47 AM
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a reply to: Krakatoa

What you said and also that the telemetry would be mounted over the intake. Or the intake would be so far ahead that it would convolute the radar cross section and aerodynamics of the nose.





edit on 5-6-2018 by CraftBuilder because: of typo.



posted on Jun, 5 2018 @ 12:21 PM
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a reply to: Krakatoa

The lift fan isn't just VTOL. The F-35B uses it for STOL purposes all the time. People are assuming this is a pure VSTOL, when it might just be a STOL platform.



posted on Jun, 5 2018 @ 12:49 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

Is there a case for STOL/VTOL and high speed in a single platform? Isn’t the idea of STOL/VTOL more suited to slower CAS than speed?



posted on Jun, 5 2018 @ 01:21 PM
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a reply to: PhantomTwo

If the platform is intended to be carrier based. The Chinese are building carriers as fast as they can and a STOL platform with high speed capability would be nice to give your fleet that extra lead time on targets.
edit on 5-6-2018 by Sammamishman because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 5 2018 @ 01:35 PM
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a reply to: PhantomTwo

It was originally envisioned as a way to get around needing a fixed airfield in Europe. They saw a case for being able to use almost anything as an airfield in the event of a war with the Soviets.

The Harrier is high subsonic (mach 0.9) and the F-35B is supersonic (mach 1.6). It's extremely useful for CAS, because they can be used in an expeditionary role and flown out of temporary airfields, so they can be moved closer to where they're needed.



posted on Jun, 5 2018 @ 01:51 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

but for CAS doesn't faster usually mean less loiter time, less payload & all that very useful CAS stuff?



posted on Jun, 5 2018 @ 02:02 PM
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Where are you guys getting VTOL from? Because it has an airbrake? It has a chin inlet. You think they are doing a ducting fan through or around the main inlet?



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