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China reveals tailless concept for next-generation fighter jet

A promotional video released by the Chinese aviation industry on Tuesday featured computer generated images showing what analysts said on Wednesday could represent a concept of the country’s next-generation fighter jet, which reflects China’s determination to outpace the US in new warplane development.

The video, published in the WeChat video channel of the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), introduced China’s airborne radar development and featured near its end a computer-generated clip showing three unknown aircraft flying in formation.

The aircraft looked like the J-20 stealth fighter jet, but with no canards, tails or fins, and the diamond-shaped wings appeared bigger than those of the J-20, giving it what seems to be a blended wing-body configuration, observers said, who also speculated that it might be China’s next-generation fighter jet.

At the Airshow China 2022 held in Zhuhai, South China’s Guangdong Province in November 2022, AVIC put on display a concept model of a next-generation fighter jet, which also had a tailless design like the aircraft shown in the latest video.

Other countries are also conducting research and development into next-generation fighter jets, and tailless designs similar to the one shown by China are some of the most popular concepts, Fu Qianshao, a Chinese military aviation expert, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

A tailless design will give the next-generation, or the sixth-generation, fighter jet superior stealth capability in all directions than current fifth-generation ones, and a blended wing body design will provide higher lift, longer range and lower fuel consumption. However, without vertical tails, the new aircraft will lose out on maneuverability if it does not use other designs or technologies to compensate, like thrust vectoring control-capable engines and split brake rudders, or other innovative approaches, analysts said.

With the project name Next Generation Air Dominance, the US’ next-generation fighter jet might also use a tailless design, according to a computer-generated rendering by US military warplane contractor Lockheed Martin, US news website Defense News reported in September 2022.

Based on the information available now, China has started research and development in terms of the next-generation fighter jet, and it is in a confident place to eventually outpace the US, Fu said.