PHOTO: Baby UCAV flies in China? - The DEW Line By Stephen Trimble on September 23, 2011 5:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) |ShareThis A new photo on sinodefenseforum and Secret Projects appears to show China's first stealthy unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV). One view on these forums guesses this image may reveal a new, subscale, 2m-wingspan demonstrator by Shenyang, one of China's three historic fighter makers along with Chengdu and Xian. Others speculate that it could be merely a hobbyist's remote controlled aircraft - a toy. With startling photos of secret Chinese military projects, there is always reason to suspect fraud-by-Photoshop. But this image at least wears a legitimate pedigree. Weifeng is the online moniker for a widely published Chinese aviation spotter. You can view this photographer's catalogue of commercial and military aircraft images on airliners.net and JetPhotos.net. Weifeng also maintains one of the best and most up-to-date Chinese military imagery sites at cnair.top81.cn. This image of a stealthy UCAV is being ciruclated only three weeks after Weifeng attended an open house at Changchun AFB, which yielded this gorgeous image of a parked J-11. We don't need to speculate about Shenyang's interest in flying-wing, stealthy UCAVs. The company's research engineers have published several papers in recent years on this topic, including this one titled "Application of Flying Wing UAV for Reconnaissance". The paper concludes "the flying wing configuration is an optimal selection of aerodynamic configuration design of an UCAV for reconnaissance". We've also seen China show off flying-wing concepts for UCAVs in the recent past. At the 2008 Zhuhai air show, for instance, Shenyang presented a forward-swept flying wing called Combat Eagle [shown below]. It is not as electrifying as the Dark Sword concept that Shenyang unveiled at the 2006 Zhuhai air show, but clearly shows Chinese ambitions in stealthy UCAVs. It would not be out of sequence for Shenyang's engineering team to begin with a subscale demonstrator to understand the aerodynamics and flight controls of a flying-wing aircraft.