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Image Of China's Stealthy 'Dark Sword'Fighter-Like Combat Drone Emerges

中国的“暗剑”隐身战斗无人机的照片出现了

We have talked in-depth about how China isbarreling forward with advanced unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV)development—and this is just based on what the Chinese government wants us tosee. Now a new photo has surfaced that appears to show a full-sized 'DarkSword' UCAV. The concept has been talked about and shown in renderings andmodels for over a decade and a subscale remote controlled demonstrator wassupposedly flown as well. But this is the first time evidence of a far moremature and substantive iteration of Dark Sword has been seen.

我们已经深入探讨过,中国在先进的无人驾驶战斗机(UCAV)研发上的快速进展,而这也只是基于中国想让我们看见的东西。现在一张新的照片已经浮出水面,似乎展示了一架全尺寸的“暗剑”无人驾驶战斗机。对概念机的讨论,以及用透视图和模型的展示已经十多年了,而且一个缩放版的遥控论证机据推测也已经试飞过了。但这是第一次看到真实存在且成熟得多的暗剑雏型。
  
Dark Sword, which originates from ShenyangAircraft Corporation, has a low observable (stealthy) configuration thatdiffers drastically from more common flying-wing advanced unmanned aircraftdesigns. Whereas those are optimized for endurance, altitude performance,broadband low observability, and payload, Dark Sword is designed for sustainedspeed and agility.

暗剑由沈飞公司创造,拥有和更常规飞翼布局的无人机设计截然不同的低可视(隐身)外形。但那样是为了在耐久性、高空性能、宽波段低可见性和有效载荷方面达到最优,暗剑在设计上突出的就是持续速度和敏捷性。


 
Past renderings depict a conical planformwith lifting-body attributes. Non-maneuvering, but possibly retractable canardforeplanes are present on its nose section. A wide, splayed tail section withcanted vertical stabilizers and swept wings round out the rest of the designand a single-engine is fed by a sharp, forward-swept, chin-mounted intake.

过去的透视图描画出一个具有升力体属性的圆锥形俯视图。在它的机鼻部分有不可机动但可能有伸缩能力的鸭翼。一个有着垂直尾翼的宽展、呈八字形的尾部,后掠翼使得其余的设计更加丰满,而且为其单发引擎配备了一个尖头、前掠、位于机头下方的进气口。

This new image appears to feature areal-life, practical interpretation of the Dark Sword concept using provenlow-observable design elements that have been flown on other Chinese stealthyaircraft designs. Most notable is the presence of a Diverterless SupersonicInlet (DSI). You can read all about this technology in this past feature ofmine, but suffice it to say it was minted by Lockheed here in the United Statesin the 1990s and is a key feature on the F-35, yet China has run with theconcept to an even greater degree.

这张新照片似乎是对现实而实用的说明暗剑概念机给出了特写,使用了在其他中国隐身飞机设计中已经被证实的低可见设计元素。最引人注意的是无附面层隔道超音速进气道(即DSI进气道)的存在。你可以在我过往的专题节目中读到所有关于这种技术的内容,但只要告诉你一点就足够了:这种技术由美国洛克希德公司在90年代打造,而且是F-35战机的关键特征,然而中国已经更进一步地发挥了这种概念。

Currently, China's J-20 and J-31 stealthfighters leverage DSI technology, as does the latest variants of the JF-17export fighter. It has even been incorporated on the second iteration of theJ-10, the PLAAF's 'bread and butter' multi-role 4th generation fighter.

目前,中国的J-20和J-31隐身战机用上了DSI技术,最新改进版的JF-17(即枭龙)出口型战机也用上了。它甚至已经被纳入了J-10的第二代雏形,它是解放军空军看家的第四代多功能战机。


 
A DSI allows for supersonic flight withoutthe use of complex maneuvering ramps that slow air to subsonic speeds before ithits the engine face. It also removes boundary layer air from the aircraft'sfuselage, providing the engine with stable and consistent airflow throughoutthe aircraft's flight envelope without the necessity of non-stealthy splitterplates and other structures. Finally, it provides for radar cross-sectionreduction in multiple ways. First off, by not needing the aforementionedelaborate splitter planes and maneuvering ramps or bleed air doors which arenot conducive to low-observability on the RF spectrum. The DSI's 'bulge' andupturned leading edge also help to obscure the highly reflective engine faceincoming radar waves.  

DSI进气口考虑到了超音速飞行,无须使用复杂的操纵斜面,它会在空气冲击发动机表面前将其减慢到亚音速。它还能除去机身附近的边界层空气,在整个飞行过程中为发动机提供稳定而连贯的气流而无须非隐身分流板和其他结构。最后,它能以多种方式降低雷达散射截面面积。首先是缘于,并不需要上文提到的复杂分流器,以及不利于在射频频谱上低可见性的操纵斜面或是引气门。DSI进气口的“突出部”以及朝上的机翼前缘,也有助于隐藏对雷达波高反射的发动机表面。

The presence of a DSI on a more mature andfull-scale version of Dark Sword is telling as it gives us a firmer idea of theaircraft's performance. DSIs allow for supersonic flight up to about Mach 2.This fact helps dispel a lot of the erroneous and far-fetched rumors about DarkSword, including that it is some sort of hypersonic super-weapon, which simplyisn't the case.

更成熟的全尺寸版本暗剑上DSI进气口的存在,给了我们关于飞机性能更确凿的看法。DSI考虑到了高达2马赫的超音速飞行。该事实有助于消除许多关于暗剑的错误而牵强的谣言,包括它是某种高超音速超级武器,事实显然不是如此。

In addition, saw-tooth edges can be seen onthe Dark Sword's gear doors, which look very similar to the J-20's setup.Sawtooth edges and edge alignment, in general, are design elements that havebeen used since the dawn of stealth to minimize radar reflectivity where thereare seams and operating fissures on a stealthy aircraft's skin.

此外,起落架舱门处能看到锯齿状的边缘,看上去非常类似J-20的结构。锯齿边缘以及对齐的边缘大体上说,是为了展现为隐身状态而用于最小化雷达反射的设计元素,那里的隐身飞机蒙皮上有一些接缝和操纵用的裂隙。

This is an especially useful design elementwhen it comes to optimizing a stealthy aircraft to evade X-Band and similarfire control radars, or at least to deny their ability to attain an engagementquality track. A high-speed tactical UCAV design like Dark Sword wouldprioritize low-observable design optimization in just such a way as it tradeshigh-performance for broadband stealth against a wider range of radar operatingbands. Its tail surfaces and other elements are already less than optimal whenit comes to evading lower-frequency radars, but considering its speed,optimizing survivability against air-to-air and common ground-based firecontrol radars is most important.

当优化隐身飞机以规避X波段以及类似的火控雷达时,这是一种特别有用的设计元素,至少也能废掉其符合交战要求的跟踪能力。一架像暗剑这样设计的高速战术无人驾驶战斗机会优先考虑低可见设计的最优化,用的方法是牺牲更宽广的雷达工作频带,以换取宽频带中的隐身高性能。而说到规避低频雷达,它的尾翼面以及其他要素已经不是最佳的了,但要考虑到,最重要的是它针对空对空以及常规地基火控雷达的速度和最优化的生存能力。

The airframe also seems to wear a silverpaint job similar to what the now operational J-20 wears. This includes lightergrey edges where composite low-observable structures are fitted or whereembedded antennas are installed. Whether this is just representative or anactual feature of a working design remains unknown.

机身用的是银色涂装,看上去类似可实战的J-20所用涂装。包括更浅的灰色边缘,在那里装有复合材料制成的低可见结构,或许还装有嵌入式天线。这只是具备了一些代表性,还是实效设计的真正特征还不得而知。   

So, in essence, what we have here isstealthy unmanned airframe that can likely supercruise (fly faster than thespeed of sound without the use of afterburner), or at least its design intendsto do so dependent on available engine technology and hit top speeds up toaround Mach 2.

所以本质上,我们手头有的是隐身无人驾驶机身,也许能够超音速巡航(无须开加力就能飞得比音速快),至少其设计旨在达到这样的水平,取决于现成可用的发动机技术,能达到的最高速度在2马赫上下。

Such an aircraft would be especially wellsuited for making supersonic dashes across the Taiwan Strait during a conflictas opposed to flying medium or long-endurance surveillance missions. It's alsopossible that the design could also be intended to find its way to China'supcoming catapult and barrier equipped aircraft carriers.

与飞行媒介或是长时间续航的监视任务不同,这样一款飞机会尤其适合在冲突期间以超音速冲刺穿越台湾海峡。也有可能,这种设计本就打算上舰,即中国即将到来的装备了弹射器和拦阻索的航母。

Whether based on land or at sea, Dark Swordappears to be uniquely well suited to operate under a 'loyal wingman' or'tethered' concept of operations in addition to an independent one. Under sucha setup, Dark Sword would be able to speed ahead of manned fighters on commandto collect data and targeting information, or even engage targets itself. Sucha capability would be useful to stealthy and non-stealthy manned fightersalike. But for the latter, it could be a huge force multiplier, providinghigh-end counter-air defense and strike capability without the cost ofprocuring droves of high-end stealthy manned fighters.

不管是陆基或是海基,除了独立的单架作业以外,暗剑似乎能很好地适应在“忠诚的僚机”或是“拴系”的操作概念下作业。在这种安排下,暗剑在接受指令收集数据和目标信息甚至自己射击目标时,在速度上将能胜过有人战机。这种性能对于隐身以及类似的非隐身有人战机会很有用。但对后者来说,这将会是力量倍增器,它能提供高端制空防卫以及打击能力,而无须付出实现高端有人隐身战机机群的成本。

What we don't know is if the aircraft shownin the photo is an elaborate mockup, an actual flying article, or something inbetween. We also don't know when the photo was taken as it is more likely thannot the project is much farther along now than what is indicated by the image.Remember, the Chinese show us only what they want to.

我们不知道的是,照片中展示的这架飞机是否是精心制作的模型,还是一个真正能飞的东西,或是介于两者之间。我们也不知道这张照片是什么时候拍摄的,因为更有可能现在这个计划要比照片表现出来的深邃得多。记住,中国人只会给我们看他们想让我们看的东西。

Above all else, this development serves asanother reminder of how China is surging ahead when it comes to advancedunmanned combat aircraft capabilities, while the U.S. acts as if the conceptdoesn't even exist even after it proved to be a game-changing breakthrough adecade and a half ago.

而压倒一切的是,该进展还提示我们,中国在先进无人战机性能上是如何遥遥领先的,与此同时美国的行动就好像这种理念根本不存在,甚至在十五年前它就已经被证明是一个改变游戏规则的突破性进展。     

Without a doubt, there is development beingdone in the classified realm on advanced unmanned systems, but at this stage,that is problematic in itself, especially when it comes to providingsignificant funding for such programs, as the very concept relies on volume ofairframes above all else. It also makes tailoring an air combat fightingdoctrine to accommodate such an awesome shift in capabilities nearlyimpossible, which is hugely wasteful and even negligent as it deeply impactsprocurement decisions.

毫无疑问,在机密的先进无人系统领域,已经出现了一些进展,但在现阶段,它本身是存在问题的,尤其是为这类项目提供大量资金时,因为这种概念仰赖机身的体积超过其他一切。它为了适应性能上的这种令人生畏的转变而去修改空战作战原则几乎是不可能的,那是极大的浪费甚至是疏忽,因为它深深地冲击了采购决策。

In the end military culture, big businessthat serves it, and other special interests at play within thedefense-industrial complex have kept advanced unmanned combat aircraft at bayseemingly to protect existing manned programs, at least in terms of havingmajor defense programs of record. Yet they will all have to come to terms withthe fact that manned platforms are not the future of aerial warfare and ourenemies could care less about existential debates about the ethics of unmannedand autonomous weaponry.

最后要说的是,军队文化、为之服务的大企业以及国防工业联合体内部的其他特殊利益集团玩家一直将先进无人驾驶战斗机拒之门外,似乎是为了保护现存的有人驾驶计划,至少对于台面上的重大防御计划是这样。然而有人驾驶平台并非空战的未来,而且我们的敌人并不在意无人驾驶和自动武器使用伦理中存在的争议,在这些事实面前,所有那些势力都将不得不让步。

At this point, it is quite possible thatthe Pentagon will be caught off-guard by its potential enemies' ingenuity whenit comes to this technology in the same way they were by far less advancedweaponized hobby-like drones. That was another capability many of us werescreaming about for years, with those warnings apparently falling on deaf earsamong the Pentagon's decision makers until the threat had become all toopalpable. Oh, and swarms of small drones is another area where China is rushingforward developmentally.

此时此刻,五角大楼很有可能会对潜在敌人的独特创造毫无防备,这就和他们到目前为止对不那么先进的武器化无人机毫无防备一样。这又是一个我们中的很多人呼吁了多年的能力,很明显五角大楼的决策者们对那些警告充耳不闻,直到威胁变得太过明显。哦对了,小型无人机的蜂群战术是另一个中国急速发展的领域。

Let's not let history repeat itself againas peer states with mature, high-end, penetrating tactical drone capabilitiesis far more frightening strategically speaking than some thug jihadis withquadcopters that can drop improvised grenades.

让我们别让历史重演,因为拥有成熟、高端、具备穿透能力战术无人机性能的同行国家,从战略角度来讲比那些只会乱扔手榴弹的暴徒圣战分子要可怕得多。