Alex Lockie — Business Insider June 6, 2018
- China released images of a new, unmanned, stealth-fighter-style jet, and they present a shocking look into how close Beijing has come to unseating the US as the dominant military air power.
- An expert who examined the pictures said the drone, called the “Dark Sword,” could give China a big advantage in a fight with the US.
- The Dark Sword looks like an unmanned stealth fighter jet that could overwhelm the US with quantity and supersonic speed.
- The US thought about making a jet like this, but instead turned it into a tanker, and now it could be falling behind.
China released images of a new, unmanned, stealth fighter-style jet, and they present a shocking look into how close Beijing has come to unseating the US as the dominant military air power.
China has already built stealth fighter jets that give US military planners pause, but the images of its new unmanned plane, named the “Dark Sword,” suggest a whole new warfighting concept that could prove an absolute nightmare for the US.
Justin Bronk, an air-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, said the Dark Sword “represents a very different design philosophy” than US unmanned combat jet plans.
Bronk examined the photos available of the Dark Sword and concluded it appeared optimized for fast, supersonic flight as opposed to maximized stealth.
“The Chinese have gone with something that has a longer body, so it’s stable in pitch. It’s got these vertical, F-22 style vertical stabilizers,” which suggest it’s “geared towards supersonic performance and fighter-style capability.”
Though the US once led in designing drones, it was caught off guard by militarized off-the-shelf drones used in combat in the Middle East. Now, once again, the US appears caught off guard by China moving on the idea of an unmanned fighter jet — an idea the US had and abandoned.
The US is now pushing to get a drone aboard aircraft carriers but downgraded that mission from a possible fighter to a simple aerial tanker with no requirement for stealth or survivability in what Bronk called a “strong vote from the US Navy that it doesn’t want to go down the combat” drone road.
But a cliché saying in military circles rings true here: The enemy gets a vote.
A nightmare for the US