During the first half of 2013 a couple of new Chinesemilitary aviation projects have come to light. One recent development was thesighting of China’s Sharp Sword unmanned combat air vehicle, which was revealedin May. More recently, images have emerged of a structural model of whatappears to be a new Chinese stealth bomber.
While many are tempted to dismiss the Chinese developmentsas mere knock-offs based on stolen Western technologies, there are those whobelieve that we, particularly those of us here in the United States, areunderestimating China’s capabilities.
Having examined the Chinese designs, a number of highlyexperienced US aerospace engineers–all of whom have extensive experiencedesigning low observable aircraft–are convinced that not only are the newdesigns original, but that they are viable stealth airframes (even if they arenot all-aspect stealth machines in some cases). “There is an aerospacerenaissance underway in China,” one engineer says. “It was just a matter of time.”
The Sharp Sword not only looks viable as a low observableaircraft from many angles–save for the distinctly non-stealthy exhaust, itlooks like it is an original design, one engineer says. Asked about the structural model forthe Chinese stealth bomber, the engineer says that his unfortunate conclusionis that the aircraft is in fact a viable design.
While China is not yet an adversary of the Unites States,there is potential that as the country continues to reemerge as a greateconomic and military power that it could become one. In that case it would befoolish to underestimate the capabilities of Chinese engineers. “They havetalented designers,” one engineer says.
If it does come down to some sort of new Cold War, this timearound the United States would be facing-off against an enemy with a vibranteconomy, as a learned friend notes–a marked contrast to the Soviet Union,which was always hamstrung by its command economy.