chinese Sixth generatoin aircraft concept
China's sixth-generation fighter concept, with its cross-section shown inside a mode at Zhuhai Air Show 2022 Air News

The Zhuhai Air Show, which takes place once every two years, is the best opportunity to see the latest communist military technology and achievements. 

An advanced stealth fighter jet with no tail is just one of China’s many ideas for the future of military technology being developed in Zhuhai.


It is common knowledge that the Chinese aerospace industry is working on a sixth-generation fighter jet. General Mark Kelly, the head of the United States Air Combat Command (ACC), stated in September that China is “on track” to produce a sixth-generation fighter and reaffirmed the importance of the United States maintaining an air force.

The US gets its next-generation fighter up and running before China does. The US Air Force must “ensure that they reach sixth-generation air dominance at least a month before their competitors,” Kelly said while addressing the media at the Association’s Air, Space, and Cyber ​​​​Conference. Air and Space Forces (AFA).

sixth-generation fighter
The US Air Force Research Laboratory released a concept of the sixth generation NGAD aircraft.

In addition, the United States is developing a sixth-generation manned stealth fighter with unprecedented capabilities as part of the Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program.

On the other hand, it is thought that senior USAF officials are concerned about the Chinese sixth-generation program, for which no official or trustworthy information is available to the public.

In particular, designs for a tailless fighter jet on display at this year’s Zhuhai Air Show have previously appeared in public domain Chinese aeronautical engineering white papers.

Also, in October of last year, a strange vehicle with a tail was seen at the airfield of the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) factory. It was considered a model or demonstrator of a sixth-generation manned fighter.

Andreas Rupprecht, an expert on Chinese military aviation, says that it seems likely that a sixth-generation manned fighter project will go into service around the year 2035. If China stays on track, the first flight might happen as early as 2026 or 2028.

More importantly, Rupprecht noted that this 2035 target originated from a 2019 interview with Wang Haifeng, chief designer of the CAC.

CAC is one of China’s top two fighter manufacturers, responsible for the J-10 single-engine fighter and the J-20 fifth-generation aircraft. Therefore, it is an obvious candidate for a sixth-generation fighter program.

China’s sixth-generation manned fighter

General Kelly discussed China’s chances for sixth-generation airpower at the AFA conference in September. Including future manned combat aircraft similar to the USAF, including “an exponential reduction signature, an exponential acceleration of processing power and detection,” and the ability to “iterate” improvements with the help of open mission systems.

The fuselage of the tailless vehicle spotted at the CAC factory airfield in October 2021 seems appropriate to perform an “exponential reduction of the signature.”

The tailless design significantly improves broadband’s low observability against many types of radars operating at different frequencies. It also reduces the aircraft’s radar signature from the side and rear view beyond the front aspect.

Another feature of the tailless design concept is improved efficiency by reducing aerodynamic drag for sustained high-speed flight and cruise.

The fuselage features a modified diamond-shaped delta platform with a relatively thin nose section. The wingspan appears to be about as long as that of a J-20. This design has space for fuel and a large weapons bay inside. It also makes you lighter.

A long-range, large payload capacity, rapid speed, and minimal visibility would benefit such a design.

The design’s potential lack of mobility results from difficulties establishing stability without vertical tails. Thrust vectoring, however, might help mitigate this to some degree.

Unconfirmed reports have suggested that the aircraft use a WS-19-derived thrust vectoring control (TVC) engine.

However, as the Eurasian Times has noted, the NGAD program is considerably broader than just developing a new manned fighter; it is an effort to develop a system of systems that would incorporate unmanned aircraft, manned aircraft, and next-generation network technologies.

Wang highlighted the ability to cooperate with drones, artificial intelligence, enhanced stealth, and upgraded sensors in the interview he gave in 2019, which was conducted in 2019.

More recently, a mysterious stealth drone showed up before the Zhuhai Airshow. It is thought to be a “loyal wingman” concept made to work with J-20 stealth fighters.