J-18 Red Eagle VSTOL (Jianjiji-18 Fighter aircraft 18) / F-18
According to some sources the J-18 nomenclature is reportedly the "Snowy Owl" stealthy JSF-type aircraft. Details about the Chinese J-18 project are not yet known. Chinese authorities have not formally released informtion on these developments. The "J-18" might simply be the J-15 Chinese copy of the Su-33 that appeared in a naval paintjob around the same time the J-18 rumors surfaced.
In April 2011 Phoenix Television, citing a story in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, reported that the J-18 had completed a test flight at a field base in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. It was reported that the wings of the jet, similar to Russia's Su-33, a carrier-based multi-role fighter, could be folded so it would be deployed on China's future aircraft carrier.
Writing in Defense News, Wendell Minnick reported on 22 April 2011 that "China may have test-flown the J-18 Red Eagle vertical short takeoff and landing (VSTOL) fighter earlier this month, if chatter on Chinese-language military blogs is accurate.... Tests were supposedly conducted earlier this month and the fighter is similar to the Sukhoi Su-33 carrier-based fighter."
Richard Fisher, vice president of the Washington-based International Assessment and Strategy Center, said that "In 2005, a Chinese aviation industry source told me the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation was considering a F-35B-like program... Given the PLA's naval power projection ambitions, it is probable there is VSTOL or STOVL [short takeoff and vertical landing] fighter program. ... There are "many alleged programs in the Chinese blogosphere."
Chinese forums reported on 25 April 2011 that Beijing had probably began testing new J-18 Red Eagle short takeoff and vertical landing fighter aircraft. Officially the launching of test planes was not confirmed. Presumably, the J-18 flight tests took place in early April 2011. Flights were performed by an aircraft that was apparently similar to the Russian Su-33 carrier fighter. Why witnesses felt that the plane was the J-18 was not specified.
It is unclear why the Chinese navy would need a vertical-landing fighter, given the performance limitations associated with such designs, and considering China's apparent plans to deploy a big-deck carrier that would not need such a "jump jet."
The claim that the J-18 is 'similar to the Russian Su-33 carrier-based fighter' seems unlikely. If the plane had been copied from Sukhoi Su-33, for short take-off and vertical landing, Chinese engineers would have a lot of work on their hands. The Su-33 is a very large airplane, weighing 66,000 pounds fully loaded, which is three times larger than the the Anglo-American AV-8 Harrier jump jet. For comparison, other plane with a vertical takeoff and landing capabilities includ the the Soviet Yakovlev Yak-141, which weighs 19.5 tons, and the American F-35B, which weighs 22.5 tons.
The creation of a heavy fighter with short take-off and vertical landing is possible, but the technical feasibility and economic viability of such aircraft remain unclear. The American F-35B Lightning II with short takeoff and vertical landing fighter aircraft has experienced a lot of technical difficulties, which threatened the program with cancellation. Among the identified problems-overheating engines mode vertical takeoff and landing, excessive weight fighter, problems with some components of vertical landing and failures in the software. Any such aircraft would require innovative technical solutions, and short takeoff and vertical landing requires significantly more fuel than a conventional deck fighter. The design of the chassis and engines of an aircraft of this type are particularly challenging.
Flight Internation reported in early 2013 about poor quality images alledgedly depicting a new Chinese STOVL aircraft that had recently appeared in several Chinese websites. The pictures show a twin engined aircraft (or flying model) with high-mounted canard wings and canted twin tails which may suggest that it is the Shenyang J-18, a new aircraft said to be in the same class as the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II STOVL aircraft. Shenyang, the manufacturer of J-31 stealth fighter, which resembles the F-35 Lightning II, has been reportedly using RC models to test designs in flight, such as the F-60 model unveiled in September 2011 that preceeded the J-31. The pictures may be a scale representation of an on-going project. The J-18 would be the country’s third stealth fighter prototype after the Chengdu J-20 Black Eagle and Shenyang J-31 Gyrfalcon. The development of the J-18 was first reported by Tokyo-based Asahi Shimbun in 2011, which revealed that the plane had already completed its test flight at a secret base in Inner Mongolia. Defense News, based in Washington DC, said this 4.5-generation fighter designed by China’s Shenyang Aircraft Corporation is nicknamed “Red Eagle.” According to the Jane’s International Defense Review magazine, the J-18 has mounted with two vector jet engines for horizontal thrust, though it is still unknown whether this new fighter adopts the lift style of the US F-35 Lightning II or Russian Yak-141 Freestyle.
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