For years to come an unmanned, carrier-based 5th generation stealth fighter will remain a fantasy in Beijing.
By Harry Kazianis
Loyal readers of Flashpoints know any type of new Chinese military weapon or gadget is always a hot topic of conversation for this blog. And rightly so—Beijing has presented us defense geeks with new ballistic and cruise missile technology, a new carrier with rumors of a domestically built flattop allegedly under construction, fresh ICBM’s, increasingly advanced submarines and more. The rumor mill is always churning with new developments and technologies to digest and dissect.
The latest buzz coming from the always accurate Chinese press seems too good to be true: Beijing’s best and brightest—at least according to one expert—is looking out into the future and sees a need for China’s 5th generation stealth fighter to join carrier operations. Oh and by the way, the idea is to make them unmanned.
Now to be fair, the report in the People’s Daily on November 28th is more like speculation by a Chinese military expert than actual confirmations of a green-lighted project. Still, that such a report could be remotely taken seriously shows how far China’s defense industry has come in just the last few years.
“Interviewed by a reporter, military expert Li Li said that in the future China would need unmanned stealth attackers that could be transported by aircraft carrier or effectively partnered with the J-20.
When asked what kind of unmanned stealth attackers China would most need, Li Li answered that craft that could complete long-distance in-depth attacks on enemy targets would have to be large unmanned stealth planes weighing 6 to 10 tons, because only planes of such size and weight could carry sufficient ordinance.
In addition, the plane must have stealth capacity in order to be able to penetrate defensive perimeters. Although the cost of an unmanned plane is lower than that of a manned plane, the lower cost is of no value if the craft cannot meet mission requirements. Therefore, solving such problems as stealth material and aerodynamic shape represents a comprehensive development project.”