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This Chinese hypersonic drone beats the F-22 in aerodynamic efficiency

WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

China is now going hard on developing hypersonic drones and drone swarms and that should have the US worried … or more worried than they already are …

 

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According to Chinese sources, a new Chinese hypersonic drone – which they might one day bake into swarms – has allegedly shown superior aerodynamic performance to the American Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 “Raptor” fighter. Its equivalent or better lift-to-drag ratios make it incredibly manoeuvrable. And, if true, especially when combined with China’s latest quantum radar breakthroughs which let them detect stealth aircraft easier than ever before, this could give the American military more of a headache than they already have.

 

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According to Beijing-based researchers, the new hypersonic drone was calculated as having a lift-to-drag ratio of 8.4 at subsonic speeds. This is at least on par with the F-22 “Raptor,” the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reports.

If you are unaware, this ratio is an important metric for measuring an aircraft’s aerodynamic efficiency. In aerodynamics, the lift-to-drag ratio (or L/D ratio) is the lift generated by an aerodynamic body such as an aerofoil or aircraft, divided by the aerodynamic drag caused by moving through air.

 

Get more insights into the MD-22

 

The higher the value, the better an aircraft can stay airborne and travel greater distances. In the case of the F-22 “Raptor,” its high L/D ratio means it can fly at supersonic speeds without using an afterburner due to its sleek aerodynamic design and increased thrust.

 

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According to William Oehlschlager, a senior Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aerospace engineer, the F-22 can achieve a maximum lift-to-drag ratio of 8.4. The F-22 is less efficient than the subsonic F-35 because it needs to maintain higher speeds. However, at 1.5 Mach, its lift-to-drag ratio drops to around 4 due to increased drag.

SCMP reports that China’s new hypersonic drone can allegedly maintain a lift-to-drag ratio higher than 4 while cruising at 6 times the speed of sound, indicating, it is claimed, superior aerodynamic efficiency compared to the F-22.

This claim comes from recent wind tunnel testing of a hypersonic drone model led by Zhang Chenan, a researcher with the state key laboratory of high-temperature gas dynamics at the Institute of Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

 

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SCMP reports that their findings were published in the peer-reviewed Chinese academic journal Acta Mechanica Sinica on February 23.

This hypersonic drone’s performance allows it to manoeuvre easily even in a thin, high-altitude atmosphere, challenging missile defense systems that rely on predicting flight paths.

Zhang and his team did not reveal the drone’s model, however it allegedly resembles the design of the MD-22 hypersonic vehicle that was made public in 2019. The MD-22, developed by Guangdong Aerospace Science and Industry Research Institute, is a reusable hypersonic technology test platform for near-space applications that offers an ultra-long range and high manoeuvrability.

 

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This drone can deliver a 1,323-pound (600 kg) payload up to 4,971 miles (8,000 km) at a speed of Mach 7 (8,644 kph), which is equivalent to the distance between China and the continental United States.

Weighing only 4 tonnes, the MD-22 can be powered by an air-breathing engine for takeoff on airport runways or vertically launched from a rocket launch site. It can withstand up to six times the force of gravity when turning at high speeds.

The new model described by Zhang’s team is significantly larger than the MD-22, measuring over 39 feet (12 meters) in length and a wingspan of nearly 20 feet (6 meters).

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