Friday, November 2, 2012

There's something in the air

Hello, Dear Readers of the Blog--A quick post today about the news on China's J-31, allegedly its latest attempt at building a stealth aircraft.

On Wednesday, according to unnamed "reports" cited in the reputable defense blog, the J-31 took to the air for the first time. This in itself is not a huge deal; flight testing is, quite obviously, a part of getting an aircraft operational. However, I just wanted to note that the engines, seen here…

Which Instagram filter did they use?

… once again do not appear to make any attempt at having stealthy nozzles. This graphically illustrates a problem Reuters summed up nicely in a feature a couple of days ago: China may have the raw materials and know-how (even if it was, ahem, "borrowed" from other countries' projects) to build an airframe with no problems, but high-performance engine technology remains out of reach. That is a big issue for a country with high-tech military ambitions:
"Historically, all major players in aerospace have possessed both airframe and engine design capabilities," said Carlo Kopp, the Melbourne, Australia-based founder of Air Power Australia, an independent military aviation think tank. "Until China can design and produce competitive engines, the performance and capabilities of Chinese aircraft designs will be seriously limited by what technology they are permitted to import."
Anyway, the bottom line is that the J-31 is in the air, but like its older brother the J-20, it does not appear to even remotely be on par with current-generation stealth technology, or even as stealthy as the grandaddy of stealth aircraft, the F-117 (whose design originated in the '70s). It may have flown on Halloween, but for now it's still missing some key tricks, although it's a treat for plane-spotters.*

*Terrible pun. Sorry.

No comments: