China Built a Flying Saucer

Photo credit: Alert5
Photo credit: Alert5

From Popular Mechanics

  • A strange-looking vehicle at an air show in China is getting buzz for an obvious reason: It appears to resemble a UFO.

  • We don't know much about the vehicle, including which sector of the Chinese military built it, and if it can fly or not.

  • Both the U.S. Army and Air Force have previously explored similar projects that have failed.

Is the Chinese government making an investment in flying saucers? It looks that way, based on images circulating from this past weekend's 5th China Helicopter Exposition, held in the northern Tianjin region. The mockup in this photo sure resembles the classic model of a UFO:

The expo, run by the regional Tianjin government, the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), and the Chinese People's Liberation Army Ground Force, offered a chance for businesses to "demonstrate their innovations and technologies," according to its website. That's common enough for an expo, but the builders of this mockup seem to have gone the extra mile. It's assumed that a subsidiary of the state-owned AVIC built the demonstration, but it's unclear which one.

Photo credit: Chinese Internet
Photo credit: Chinese Internet

Online translations show that the ship is called a Super Great White Shark.

A rough translation from Twitter provides a description for the vehicle.

[The] Super Great White Shark armed helicopter is a composite wing-body fusion high-speed helicopter configuration designed for the future digital information battlefield. In the initial stage of its design, it refers to the international excellent and mature helicopter design technologies, such as AH-64 Apache, CH-53 Sea Stallion, and Russian Ka-52, Mi-26. While absorbing their respective advantages, it adopts the internationally popular wing-body fusion (BWB) [blended wing body] design and the former. A new type of high-speed helicopter with [a] conceptual design of propeller blades has been successfully applied in helicopter design.

The vehicle certainly looks unconventional, but the Chinese military wouldn't be the first to try out the circular design. The U.S. military has toyed with many circular vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicles, most notably the Avro Canada VZ-9 Avrocar. A joint collaboration between the Army and Air Force, each division wanted the round flyer for different reasons.

The Army saw it as an all-terrain troop transport and reconnaissance craft, while the Air Force envisioned a craft that could hover below enemy radar and then zoom up to supersonic speed. Builders tried to please both parties, and in the process, they failed both.

According to the Air Force Museum:

Tests with scale models at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, indicated that the cushion of air under the Avrocar would become unstable just a few feet off the ground. The aircraft would be incapable of reaching supersonic speeds, but the testing went ahead to determine if a suitable aircraft could be developed for the Army. The first prototype⁠—the Avrocar on display (serial number 58-7055)⁠—was sent to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. There, wind tunnel tests proved that the aircraft had insufficient control for high speed flight and was aerodynamically unstable.

The second Avrocar prototype underwent flight tests that validated the wind tunnel tests. If it flew more than three feet above the ground, the Avrocar displayed uncontrollable pitch and roll motions, which the Avro engineers called "hubcapping." The Avrocar could only reach a maximum speed of 35 mph, and all attempts to end the hubcapping failed. The project was cancelled in December 1961.

It appears that Chinese builders have gone bigger than the Avrocar ever did; the test models were under 5 feet tall, but had an 18-foot wingspan. Until the vehicle is in the air, however, it's impossible to say if these engineers have solved the problems that others faced over 50 years ago.

Source: Russia Today

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