The Chinese military has leaked first photos of a brand new lightweight fighter with external characteristics that allow the jet fifth-generation attribution. Some pictures suggest it could be used on future Chinese aircraft carriers.
Shenyang Aircraft Industry Group (SAC), one of the leading aircraftÂ design and manufacturing corporations of Chinaâ€™s aviation industry, hasÂ rolled out a prototype that might eventually become Chinese analogue toÂ Americaâ€™s F-35.
The aircraft bears a certain resemblance to Lockheed Martinâ€™s F-35Â Lightning II, and even reportedly has the codename F-60. ThoughÂ absolutely no characteristics of the prototype have been unveiled, oneÂ major difference is obvious: unlike its American relative, Chinaâ€™s F-60Â has two engines.
The pictures of the Chinese technology demonstrator suggest that theÂ engines the aircraft is currently equipped with do not have thrustÂ vectoring nozzles which might suggest the prototype is at too early aÂ stage of testing to get more sophisticated and powerful propulsionÂ package.
Inclined twin vertical tail and wide-spaced ram air inlets areÂ reminiscent of Lockheed Martinâ€™s F-22 Raptor Joint Strike Fighter.
A blurred photo from China Military Report website is the only proof that SACâ€™s F 60 aircraft has successfully been airborne.
Now it has become obvious that in the race for possession of fifthÂ Â generation aircraft the Chinese military placed its bets on two horses:Â Â Chengdu Aircraft Corporation, which is heavily testing its J-20 â€œMightyÂ Â Dragonâ€ fifth generation heavy fighter-bomber, and Shenyang AircraftÂ Â Industry Group with its F-60 lightweight fighter.
The F-60Â prototype jet bears the side number 31001, which may be aÂ reference toÂ Chengduâ€™s J-20 heavy fighter jet. The first two J-20Â prototypes haveÂ â€œ2001â€ and â€œ2002â€ side numbers respectively.
Yet, the F-60 andÂ J-20 are not likely to be regarded as competitorsÂ because it appearsÂ the aircraft will have different specializations.Â
Chinaâ€™s future sea-based fighter jet
ÂChinaâ€™s first aircraft carrier, dubbed Shi Lang, laid down by the SovietÂ Â Union in the late 1980s and almost finished now by Chinese engineers,Â Â is expected to be put into service by the end of 2012. Still, BeijingÂ Â has informed the warship will be not ready for action till 2017.
The Peopleâ€™s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) already has fighterÂ jets to form the aircraft wing for Shi Lang. China produces J-15, aÂ copycat of the Soviet-made Su-33. The J-15 copycat has been made byÂ Shenyang Aircraft Industry Group. But the Su-33 was designed in theÂ 1980s and cannot be regarded a proper sea-based aircraft in the 2010s.Â Probably since SAC already proved it can make a sea-based aircraft,Â Beijing commissioned a great challenge of creating a fifth generationÂ fighter jet for naval use to this corporation.
Chinese Military Review website has published computer-generatedÂ images of the F-60 fifth generation fighter jet in action with a wholeÂ range of various air to air missiles. On at least two pictures theÂ aircraft is depicted with an extended arrest hook that the sea-basedÂ aircraft use to stop after landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier.
The two-wheeled front rack chassis of the real F-60 prototype alsoÂ suggests the aircraft is being engineered for naval use, like sea-basedÂ versions of Dassaultâ€™s Rafale in France, Lockheed Martinâ€™s F/A-18 E/FÂ Super Hornet and the Soviet-made Su-33. At the same time there are noÂ signs the prototype is capable of short take off and vertical landing,Â which the F-35B STOVL version has.
A brief look at theÂ computer-generated images also exposes another feature the F-60 has inÂ common with Lockheed Martinâ€™s F-35 Lightning II: an extremely limitedÂ space in the internal weapon bays. A stealth aircraft must have all ofÂ its weapons hidden inside the hull to decrease the aircraftâ€™s visibilityÂ to enemy radars. The Chinese F-60, just like the American F-35, canÂ only carry small-sized short range missiles in true stealth mode.
ToÂ get seriously armed the F-60 would have to carry long-range missilesÂ externally, which would nullify its stealth capabilities. If so, theÂ F-60 will have limited capabilities.
Probably the biggest problemÂ of the modern Chinese aviation industry is the deadlock with militaryÂ jet engines it currently finds itself in. For bothÂ Chengduâ€™s J-20 and Shenyangâ€™s F-60 there are no reliable Chinese-madeÂ jet engines with technical characteristics appropriate for a fifthÂ generation fighter. Still, Chinese engineers are known not only forÂ copycat efforts, but for outstanding persistence in achieving theirÂ objectives.
It cannot be altogether excluded that by 2017, whenÂ the Shi Lang aircraft carrier will be commissioned and more warships ofÂ the kind be under construction, Chinese engineers will probably decreaseÂ or eliminate the dependence on Russian jet engines and spare parts andÂ put the F-60 on a proper flight. (RT News)