Hypersonic Drone In Aerodynamics; Chinese Media Makes Big Claim.F-22 R

This infatuation with the F-22 Raptor is palpable in China’s relentless drive for technological advancements to match or surpass the capabilities of the formidable stealth fighter.

From claiming to develop cutting-edge quantum radar systems to ground-to-air hypersonic missiles designed specifically to counter the F-22s, Chinese military innovations have frequently been juxtaposed against the F-22’s capabilities.

The F-22 Raptor hailed as the world’s most advanced and powerful stealth fighter, is so highly regarded by the United States that it has refrained from selling the aircraft to even its closest allies, emphasizing its strategic significance and unparalleled capabilities.

This superior aerodynamic efficiency allows the Chinese drone to maneuver effectively at high altitudes and poses a challenge to missile defense systems reliant on predicting flight paths.

Notably, the data regarding China’s hypersonic vehicles marks a transition from theoretical models to tangible wind tunnel tests conducted with real-world engineering constraints.

The report noted that the findings of these wind tunnel tests were documented in the peer-reviewed Chinese academic journal Acta Mechanica Sinica.

Nonetheless, if true, the event signifies a significant step forward in China’s military aerospace development efforts, as confirmed by Zhang Chenan, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Despite challenges associated with lift-to-drag ratio, stability, thermal protection, and payload integration, Chinese scientists and engineers have achieved “engineering practicality” in this technology.

Their forthcoming endeavors will concentrate on cost reduction, enhancing reliability, and augmenting radar stealth performance to facilitate a gradual transition from functionality to usability.

MD-22 Hypersonic Flight Vehicle

Chinese researchers refrained from divulging the specific drone model; however, it appears to resemble the MD-22 wide-speed-zone hypersonic flight vehicle unveiled in 2019. The Guangdong Aerospace Science and Industry Research Institute developed the drone, affiliated with the Institute of Mechanics.

The designation “MD-22” finds its roots in “mingdi,” or whistling arrow, an ancient concept evoked by Chinese historian Sima Qian more than 2,000 years ago. This term symbolizes the grave repercussions awaiting those who defy authority, encapsulating the notion of swift and decisive punishment for disobedience.

According to the reports, the MD-22 serves as a reusable hypersonic technology test platform for near-space applications, boasting remarkable characteristics such as ultra-long range and high maneuverability.

MD-22 reusable near-space hypersonic technology test platform in Zhuhai Airshow 2022
MD-22 reusable near-space hypersonic technology test platform in Zhuhai Airshow 2022

Remarkably, this unmanned aerial vehicle can transport a payload of 600kg (1,300lbs) at speeds of up to Mach 7 over a distance of 8,000km (5,000 miles), equivalent to the expanse between China and the continental United States.

Weighing a mere 4 tonnes, the MD-22 can be propelled by an air-breathing engine for take-off on airport runways or launched vertically from a rocket launch site. It exhibits resilience against up to six times gravity overload while executing high-speed turns.

However, the latest model spans over 12 meters in length with an almost six-meter wingspan, significantly larger than its predecessor, the MD-22. However, its aerodynamic configuration, featuring three engine nacelles protruding from the tail, remains largely unchanged.

China’s Overcrowded Exhibition Of Drones

China’s annual Zhuhai Air Show is an occasion for teasing and unveiling new technologies. The ongoing edition has seen some stunning visuals of China’s J-20 fighter jets flying in formation, their first-ever static ground exhibition, the Z-20 helicopters firing military flares, and a sneak peek into the sixth-generation concept.

The aircraft first flew in 1997 and was variously designated F-22 and F/A-22 before it formally entered service in December 2005 as the F-22A. Although the USAF had originally planned to buy a total of 750 ATFs, the program was cut to 187 production aircraft in 2009 due to high costs, a lack of air-to-air missions at the time of production, and the development of the more affordable and versatile F-35.[N 2] The last aircraft was delivered in 2012. After a protracted development and initial operational difficulties, the F-22 became a critical component of the USAF’s tactical airpower and will remain a cornerstone of the fighter fleet until its succession by the crewed Next Generation Air Dominance fighter

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. wants to neck down the Air Force’s fighter inventory from seven fleets to four, and the F-22 is not on his short list.

Speaking during the McAleese FY2022 Defense Programs Conference on May 12, Brown said the tactical aviation study, which launched earlier this year, isn’t meant to produce the exact “right mix” of fighters for the future but to assemble a range of options that will shift as the threat does.

The study will “shape some of the ‘22” budget, “but it’s really designed to help me shape ’23,” Brown explained. The analysis is being conducted in concert with the Joint Staff and the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation shop.

The extant seven-fleet mix of fighters will need to be reduced to “four, … plus one,” Brown said. The objective mix will include the A-10 “for a while”; the Next-Generation Air Dominance system; the F-35, “which will be the cornerstone” of the fleet; the F-15EX; and the F-16 or its successor.

He did not mention the F-22 or the F-15E. Asked to clarify, an Air Force spokesperson said Brown is thinking very long-term and in the context of “a very small fleet,” which will become increasingly hard to support, especially as it passes the 25-year age mark in 2030. The F-22 will “eventually” retire from the inventory, she said, noting the F-22’s likely successor will be the NGAD.


“The F-22 is still undergoing modernization,” USAF spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said. “There are no plans to retire it in the near-term.” How and when the F-22 will retire will depend on the outcome of the TacAir study, she said, adding that the “plus one” Brown referred to was the A-10. “We have talked about the A-10 serving into the 2030s” but not beyond, she noted.

“We’ll have the F-16s with us for a while,” but it will be replaced with something else, Brown said. Whether that will be “additional F-35s or something else into the future” remains to be seen.

Brown called the NGAD the “air superiority fighter of the future,” but he said it’s not just the aircraft that’s important to him but “how we build it.” He’s counting on digital design and acquisition to offer more options as time goes on.

His omission of the F-15E from his short list indicates that that aircraft, too, is being eyed for phase-out in the 2030s, when it will be as structurally aged as the F-15C/D fleet is now. The last F-15Es were bought in the late 1990s, but the bulk of the force is much older. The F-15EX, though planned for now to be flown by a single pilot, will have a second cockpit and all the structural strengthening of the F-15E as well as the F-15E’s conformal fuel tanks. Observers have noted the F-15EX is more like the F-15E than the F-15C, which it is now replacing. The Air Force has said it will acquire as many as 144 F-15EXs, but the contract with Boeing leaves the door open to as many as 200.


The decisions on how many and what type of aircraft will be in the mix don’t need to be made immediately but as long as eight years from now, Brown said.

“But you need to start shaping the thought process and realizing I can’t do this in one budget year,” he added. “This is why the collaboration with Congress is so important. I’ve got to lay this out with some analysis and then have a conversation of where we’re headed.” It will also require a “conversation with industry” about the art of the possible.

“I … need facts and analysis to lay this out, and that’s what I’m focused on,” Brown said.

As for unmanned/unpiloted aircraft, Brown said he anticipates they will make up a larger portion of the force in the coming years. Recent wargames have looked at the right mix of those platforms, he said, and there will be “some of both.” The Navy recently said it expects to transition to a majority of unmanned aircraft in its carrier air wings inside a decade.

He also said the TacAir discussion is leading to an analysis of “what the future fighter squadron will look like” in terms of its manned and unmanned components and how that will drive changes in training. The time is now to shape those future forces, Brown asserted, because he doesn’t want the Air Force leaders to look back in 15 years and think “they should have … planted these seeds.”

A new breed of China’s unmanned hypersonic aircraft can now challenge the aerodynamic performance of the most advanced fighter aircraft in the US military, according to a group of scientists from Beijing.

The new hypersonic drone boasts a lift-to-drag ratio of 8.4 in subsonic flight. While it is not exceptionally high, it is already on a par to that of the F-22 Raptor.

The lift-to-drag ratio is a crucial parameter for measuring aerodynamic efficiency. A higher value indicates greater resistance of the aircraft to the pull of gravity and enables it to fly a greater distance.

Nearly 20 years after introduction, the fighter remains shrouded in secrecy.


William Oehlschlager, a senior aerospace engineer with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), said the F-22 could achieve a maximum lift-to-drag ratio of 8.4, according to a presentation he gave in Virginia Tech, a top military engineering university in the United States.

The efficiency is lower than that of the subsonic F-35 because it needs to maintain higher speeds.

Previously, the aerodynamic parameters of China’s hypersonic vehicles were based on theoretical models.
But this time the data comes from wind tunnel tests with “real-world engineering constraints”, according to the team led by Zhang Chenan, a researcher with the state key laboratory of high-temperature gas dynamics at the Institute of Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Their findings were published in the peer-reviewed Chinese academic journal Acta Mechanica Sinica on February 23.The name MD-22 comes from mingdi, or whistling arrow, which was mentioned by Chinese historian Sima Qian more than 2,000 years ago when he wrote: “When the whistling arrow is fired, anyone who does not obey the person who fired it will be executed.”

In their paper, Zhang and his colleagues wrote that Qian Xuesen, the father of China’s rocketry, “first proposed the concept of hypersonic flight in 1946”.

“With the advancement of aerospace technology, hypersonic technology has gradually moved from conceptual exploration to practical application,” they said.

The aerodynamic design of the MD-22 family of hypersonic vehicles differs significantly from that of Lockheed Martin’s SR-72, Boeing’s Valkyrie, and the UK’s Skylon, featuring a simpler and sleeker appearance

China – Top Adversary Of The US

The report says that in the foreseeable future, China will continue to undermine US influence to establish Beijing as the pre-eminent power in East Asia and the leading power on the world stage.

The report asserts that “The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will attempt to pre-empt challenges to its reputation and legitimacy, undercutting US influence, driving wedges between Washington and its partners, and fostering global norms that favor its authoritarian system.” China’s emphasis on Taiwan unification will continue to be a friction point with the US.

The US intelligence community fears that as China grows confident of its nuclear deterrence, it will not hesitate from intensifying conventional conflicts.

The PLA has been modernizing its forces and has set the goal of becoming a world-class military by 2049. This, however, has been balanced by China’s lack of “recent warfighting experience,” which probably would weaken the PLA’s effectiveness and leaders’ willingness to initiate a conflict.

The US government detected a cyber campaign dubbed Volt Typhoon over a year ago. The revelation came when US-China ties plummeted to an all-time low. For over a year, Chinese military commanders refused to talk with their American counterparts despite the close-call intercepts by Chinese fighter jets of US spy planes in the Western Pacific.

Only in November 2023 did President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping agree to re-establish communication channels.

“It is obvious that Chinese attempts to compromise critical infrastructure are in part to pre-position themselves to be able to disrupt or destroy that critical infrastructure in the event of a conflict, to either prevent the United States from being able to project power into Asia or to cause societal chaos inside the United States — to affect our decision-making around a crisis,” Brandon Wales, executive director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), was quoted by the Washington Post.The latest media revelation aligns with the annual threat assessment of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) at the beginning of 2023. The evaluation found that “China almost certainly is capable of launching cyber-attacks that could disrupt critical infrastructure services within the US, including against oil and gas pipelines and rail systems.”

In May, Microsoft said it had found the Volt Typhoon infiltrating critical infrastructure in Guam, which is vital to the US’s Pacific defense strategy. The hacks were especially concerning, analysts said, because Guam is the closest US territory to the contested Taiwan Strait.

Apart from this, the ODNI report said that China is leading the world in surveilling and censoring its population and repressing dissent. Beijing conducts cyber intrusions that are targeted to affect US and non-US citizens beyond its borders — including journalists, dissidents, and individuals it views as threats — to counter views it considers critical of CCP narratives, policies, and actions.

U.S. agencies and those of America’s closest allies issued a rare joint report advising organizations on how to hunt for signs of intrusion by the same group and how to shore up defenses. The “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance said that facilities in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand could be targeted, as well.


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