Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Mysterious UAV Suspected As J-20 Stealth Fighters’ Loyal Wingman Spotted Ahead Of China’s Zhuhai Air Show

A mysterious stealthy drone has been spotted in Zhuhai, South China’s Guangdong Province, ahead of China’s biennial 2022 Zhuhai Airshow.

Images and videos of the drone are doing the rounds on social media after its apparent arrival in Zhuhai, where several other aircraft and equipment landed over the past few days.

The images available so far offer a limited view because of the angles from which they have been captured. The camouflage cover over the drone makes it even more difficult to decode it.

Based on the images and videos available, the drone appears to have a tailless flying-wing platform, but its wing structure’s exact layout is unclear. The drone has a top-mounted air intake and circular exhaust, indicating a single jet engine.

Image
One Of The Images Of The Mysterious UAV (Twitter)

The images do not hint at what payloads the drone could carry, which will offer insight into what roles and missions the drone could perform. However, a large open section can be seen on the left side of the central fuselage, which reports suggest could be a payload bay of some sort.

drone
Another Image of Mysterious UAV

Notably, the nose section of the drone appears to be large enough to house a radar, among other sensors or flight systems.

Apart from that, there are also several indications that the drone may be a prototype rather than just a full-scale model., including a covered flight data probe in front of the nose, a ‘remove before flight’ safety tag on the left underside of the nose section, and a robust-looking nose and main landing gear assemblies.

That said, none of the aforementioned features rule out the possibility of this drone being a mockup or maybe even a non-flying prototype meant for testing purposes on the ground.

‘Loyal Wingman’ Design For J-20 Stealth Aircraft  

Some unconfirmed reports suggest the drone in the images is a design from the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (CIAG), as it has been put on display right next to the company’s Wing Loong-10 drone known as the Cloud Shadow.

It is also speculated that the new drone could be a ‘loyal wingman’ concept from CIAG, designed to work with J-20 stealth fighters, among other types.

On October 12, Chinese state-owned broadcaster CCTV-7 aired a video about manned-unmanned teaming, which featured a twin-seat J-20B stealth fighter flying together with what appeared to be four Hongdu GJ-11 Sharp Sword Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs).

Reports suggest a potential role of a drone controller for the J-20B aircraft, as the addition of the backseat makes the jet better suited to perform this task and the extra workload associated with it.

Also, it has long been speculated that the GJ-11, a prototype that first took to the skies in 2013, or a version or derivative thereof, is being considered for the loyal wingman role.

Therefore, it would not be surprising if Chengdu would be interested in offering a competing ‘loyal wingman’ design for the J-20 it produces.

China’s ‘Spear & Shield’: Drones And Counter-Drone Systems 

Drones and anti-drone capabilities will be a unique feature of this year’s Zhuhai Airshow, according to China’s state-owned media outlet, Global Times, which referred to this duo as ‘spear and shield,’ while noting how their importance has been highlighted in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“China is in a world-leading position in anti-drone technologies, as China has developed many types of electronic jamming devices and vehicle-mounted laser systems that are drone killers by nature,” Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times.

“China is also a world-class developer of drones capable of independently developing advanced stealth attack drones,” Wei continued.

The much-anticipated Zhuhai Air Show will feature several drones, including the Wing Loong series armed reconnaissance drones, the CH-7 high-altitude long-endurance drone, the Twin-Tailed Scorpion D four-engine large drone, and the WZ-8 high-altitude high-speed reconnaissance drone.

Rainbow-7 or CH-7 at a China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation stall

Apart from drones, a pair of J-16 heavy fighter jets landed in Zhuhai on October 30. Other aircraft that arrived in Zhuhai include the JL-10 advanced trainer jet and the Y-20 large transport aircraft.

It will be interesting to see what new information emerges about this mysterious flying wing drone spotted in Zhuhai ahead of next week’s airshow.

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