China’s 6th Generation Shapeshifting Fighter Jet Completes Test Flight

According to Chinese media reports, engineers and scientists are conducting test flights of an unprecedented jet at an airport on the southern edge of the Tengger Desert in Ningxia, northwest China. Recent design sketches reveal that this mysterious aircraft is powered by dual-intake turbofan engines, features blended wing-body design with a swept-back delta wing, characteristic of high-speed stealth aircraft.

As reported by the South China Morning Post on the 28th, unusual events occurred during the test flight: part of the wings detached from the fighter jet and transformed into two “flying wing” drones propelled by electric ducted fans. However, the jet experienced vibrations after the drones detached, due to sudden reduction in wing area and shift in center of gravity, resulting in significant aerodynamic changes. Nevertheless, both the aircraft and the drones quickly regained stable flight, demonstrating the effectiveness of aerodynamic design and automated control algorithms.

Du Xin, senior engineer at the China Aerodynamics Research and Development Center (CARDC) Aerospace Technology Research Institute, stated that the successful test flight validates a “new concept” for China’s next-generation fighter aircraft, despite being sanctioned by the United States. In a paper published on May 29 in the Chinese journal Aerospace Engineering Progress, Du Xin and colleagues noted, “This represents an advanced mode of manned/unmanned collaborative combat, integrating multiple functionally diverse aircraft for coordinated flight.” He also emphasized that this addresses issues such as speed and range disparities between manned and unmanned aircraft to leverage complementary advantages.

In recent years, J-20 chief designer Yang Wei has repeatedly stated that China is developing a new generation of stealth fighters focused on cooperative combat capabilities with drones. Yang Wei described the distinguishing feature of China’s next-generation fighter as its unexpected shapeshifting ability. “Future aircraft may resemble Transformers from science fiction movies,” Yang Wei commented in a 2020 interview with CCTV. He further hinted in 2022, “In the near future, we will soon see the J-30 and J-40.”

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