In early June, a new photo appeared in open access, which captured one of the most promising Chinese-made UAVs. The picture was taken in a certain shop of an unknown enterprise. In the foreground of the photo were two dozen experts, apparently, participants in the Chinese program to create unmanned vehicles. They were photographed as a souvenir against the background of an interesting object - a full-size apparatus of an unusual appearance, which has a number of characteristic features. It is hardly surprising that this photo caused a stir and became the subject of many publications.
Layout UAV "An Jiang" at the exhibition 2006 year. Photo by Theaviationist.com
Having an idea of the current Chinese projects in the field of UAVs, it is not too difficult to identify the car with a fresh photo. From the characteristic contours of the fuselage and other features, it recognizes the An Jiang UAV, the existence of which became known a long time ago. However, despite the general fame of the project, any details of a technical nature still remain a mystery, and you have to rely only on assumptions and estimates.
One project and three photos
The project, known as “Dark Sword” - “An Jiang” (also possible joint writing “Anjian”) started no later than the middle of the two thousandth. It became known about him for the first time in 2006, when the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, an aircraft manufacturing corporation, brought to the exhibition in Zhuhai a model of a promising UAV. A futuristic-looking object of unclear purpose was demonstrated on the stand. However, the characteristic exterior allowed to link the layout with rumors about some projects of hypersonic aircraft, allegedly created in China. Naturally, the Chinese side did not comment on such assessments.
After the 2006 exhibition, An Jian disappeared for several years. He again managed to become a topic. News only in 2011, when a photograph appeared in the public domain with an unknown aircraft on takeoff or landing. His appearance made me think of a layout five years ago. Only one new photograph clearly showed that the Dark Sword project reached the stage of at least testing a prototype. In this case, we could talk about a full-fledged prototype.
And again the project was out of sight for several years. At a certain point there were even rumors about its closure. Why they could refuse him - all that remained was to guess. However, a new photo, published a few days ago, seems to refute the rumors about the cessation of work. It turns out that the project was continued and led to new results: a full-size mockup or even a full-fledged prototype of the Dark Sword was built.
Thus, at the moment, only a few images of An Jiang UAVs are known, all of which belong to different products - from an exhibition layout to a full-size sample. Information of a different kind about the project is missing. When China decides to disclose data on its new project is unknown. Moreover, it cannot be excluded that this will not happen at all.
The entire available amount of confirmed information about the An Jiang project is limited to several photos of not the highest quality and literally a couple of sentences of text description. However, even with these materials it is possible to make an approximate picture, at least partially describing an existing aircraft. And already on the basis of such a picture one can make assumptions, including the most courageous ones.
The appearance of the Chinese drone says the widespread use of the so-called. stealth technology. At the same time, unfortunately, you can see only those ways to reduce visibility, which affect the exterior of the device. Materials glider, of course, remain unknown.
The anticipated appearance of the device. Figure Wikimedia Commons
The 2006 model of the year showed that the Dark Sword has a fuselage of a characteristic oblate shape capable of creating lift and complementing the wing. Such a fuselage had a triangular shape with a large sweep of the leading edge. The bottom of the fuselage has a curved shape, and in its nose is an air intake. On the side edges of the carrying fuselage is set several planes. An important feature of the fuselage was a smooth upper surface without a protruding lantern.
In the nose of the An Jiang UAV there is a pair of triangular planes of the front horizontal tail. With a shift to the tail, an arrow-shaped wing of medium elongation was established. Separate tail stabilizers are not provided, but the elevators can be mounted on the flat rear edge of the fuselage. Also located in the tail is a pair of trapezoidal carinae of a large area, installed with a collapse outward. Upper keels are complemented by ventral planes, also divorced in different directions. The prototype 2011 of the year had a rising brake flap above the fuselage.
The type of power plant is unknown. The shape of the fuselage tail may indicate the use of a single-engine circuit. A prototype model flying in the 2011 year could be equipped with one of the existing turbojet engines. What engine (or engines) are on a full-size car, shown in early June, is unknown. However, there is no reason to believe that as the project developed, the power plant underwent major changes.
In the past, it became known that the new drone has a three-point chassis with nose support. The front desk is located directly under the air intake and retracts into the fuselage by turning it forward. A pair of main racks located at the sides of the fuselage, near the wing. Compartments for cleaning the chassis received covers with characteristic jagged edges, talking about the use of stealth technology.
The composition of the onboard electronic equipment and its purpose, for obvious reasons, remain unknown. The same applies to weapons. However, there is reason to believe that “An Jiang” - even if it gets the weapon - will transport it in the internal cargo shipment compartments. They could be located in the central part of the fuselage, between the niches of the main landing gear. The composition of the weapon will probably depend on the tasks to be solved. For some missions, the drone must carry weapon air-to-air class, while others will require air-to-ground weapons.
It should be noted that the UAV model 2011, had some differences from the earlier layout and the modern full-size object. On the top of its fuselage, in front of the brake flap, there were some protruding devices. Poor quality photos did not allow to determine the type and purpose of these devices. It is possible that the prototype received some means necessary for testing, but not intended for a full-fledged aircraft.
The only difference between the current full-size sample and its predecessors is its size. "An Jian" in the latest version has a length of at least 15-20 m and may have a wingspan of about 10-15 m. The weight indicators of the machine cannot be determined yet.
Versions and Assumptions
The Chinese aviation industry does not disclose the details of the new project, which, however, does not prevent the emergence of different versions. Moreover, it is the lack of official information that contributes to the formation of the boldest versions and assumptions. Over the past 12 years, since the first demonstration of the exhibition model, different versions have been expressed. In the “Dark Sword” apparatus they saw both a multipurpose reconnaissance-impact UAV and a hypersonic strategic aircraft.
Obviously, when creating the An Jiang product, SAC used certain means of reducing visibility for radars. This may indicate that the combat missions of the machine may be associated with covert work in certain areas. However, stealth technology alone does not reveal the UAV's field of activity. They can be useful for reconnaissance or strike vehicles, as well as for fighters. Internal placement of weapons can also be used on vehicles for various purposes.
According to a fairly popular version, the Dark Sword may be China’s attempt to create a hypersonic aircraft. Indeed, his airframe has the characteristics that can provide flight at the highest speeds. In this case, none of the features of the machine can not be a direct indication of the hypersonic nature of the project. However, in the conditions of a shortage of information one should not give up even from excessively bold ideas, seemingly seemingly wrong.
Of particular interest is one of the assumptions that have emerged in recent days. Thus, the aircraft "An Jiang" is proposed to be considered a prototype of a promising sixth generation fighter aircraft. According to many forecasts of the future development of fighter aircraft, the aircraft of the new generation should not be manned. The absence of the pilot on board will allow implementing a whole range of new solutions and technologies without facing the limitations imposed by human capabilities.
If the version of the “Dark Sword” as a fighter of the sixth generation is true, then China was able to bypass all the leaders in the aircraft industry, and was the first to begin full-fledged work on the further development of aviation. Moreover, he was the first to get real results in the form of a flying machine. However, this is only a version that is not yet confirmed.
If we take into account the few reliably known facts, as well as the most realistic versions and assumptions, then we can build a “balanced” picture. This picture will not be as bold as some estimates, but it is likely that it will be able to be more accurate and realistic. Let's try to guess what exactly the Chinese designers have created.
As far as we know, so far China has not tried to create a fighter drone, and therefore it is to be expected that the “Dark Sword” is intended for conducting reconnaissance or attack ground targets. The special design will allow him to secretly go to a given area and monitor the designated objects. The same opportunities will provide access to the line of use of strike weapons and the subsequent attack of the target with the help of missiles or bombs with internal suspension.
It is unlikely that the "An Jiang" is capable of showing uniquely high flight performance. Most likely, he is able to develop supersonic speed, but there is no talk of hypersound. Large internal volumes of the airframe allow you to place large tanks and get a range of several thousand kilometers, depending on the flight speed and fuel consumption. At the same time, it should not be forgotten that a part of the volume is given for internal cargo storage facilities.
A UAV must be part of a weapon system, also including an operator’s console and communications equipment. Modern UAVs are controlled by the operator over the air, and such a scheme has proven itself. It is possible that the "Dark Sword" has a certain automation, but the main decisions should remain with the person. In addition, there is no reason to believe that China was able to create on-board electronics that can fully replace the operator in all situations.
Thus, despite the very remarkable appearance and all the fears of foreign experts, a promising Chinese UAV may be a typical representative of its class of technology. A number of other countries have similar projects, and An Jiang is not completely unique.
Another interesting aspect of the Chinese project may go unnoticed during the first review. In 2006, China for the first time showed the layout of a future drone, which means that by this time the project already existed. Only a few years after that, the prototypes were tested, and a full-sized aircraft appeared not so long ago. It is unlikely that such deadlines can be called outstanding, even if we take into account the courage and complexity of the project.
It seems that in the Chinese project "An Jiang" / "Dark Sword" there is nothing revolutionary new, at least by world standards. It is unlikely that we are talking about a sixth generation fighter or a hypersonic aircraft with unique characteristics. However, this is not a reason to write off a project and not pay attention to it. It clearly shows the desire of the Chinese industry to create a fundamentally new technique. In addition, he demonstrates her ability to realize such desires.
Even if the “Dark Sword” does not make a revolution in the global aircraft industry, it can be of great importance for the development of the PLA air force. It is possible that with this machine they will receive a number of new features that are not yet available. Such a scenario should be taken into account when analyzing the future development of the Chinese army and timely draw all the necessary conclusions.
The Chinese project "An Jiang" appeared a long time ago, but managed to make some noise. Several well-known samples of this type differed significantly from the existing technology, and therefore provoked the appearance of the most daring versions and assessments. Obviously, this situation will persist until China publishes a sufficient amount of data about its new project. Then it will be possible to make more objective estimates and forecasts. Unless, of course, the whole story with the "Dark Sword" will not be a hoax or attempt to misinform a potential enemy.
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