Hebei Satellite TV says that according to CCTV4 report on November 13, 2012, a PLA major general said that China was developing a new generation of 40,000-ton grade amphibious attack vessels. The warship is capable of carrying various kinds of landing equipment, with the core capability of joint marine and air delivery of forces.
Xiong Wei, the chief editor of the magazine Ordinance Knowledge, said: “Compared with China’s currently commissioned amphibious warships, the most important characteristic of the amphibious attack vessel is a large number of helicopters it can carry.
on December 28, 2012, China’s bbs.tiexue.net posted the news of the successful maiden flight of China’s stealth VTOL J-18 fighter and a photo of the aircraft. There has been no official confirmation of the news, but there have been reports by media outside China about China’s development of that mysterious aircraft.
What the major general and Xiong Wei said about the amphibious attack vessel have given us the impression that while designing its aircraft carriers, China has an alternative plan to develop a large amphibious warship with the capability of an aircraft carrier if China can succeed in developing its stealth VTOL fighters.
Japanese and US media have lots of speculation about China’s stealth fighter jet J-18 in addition to the J-20 and J-31 already widely known.
Japan’s Asahi Shimbun was the first to publish a report on the successful test flight of J-18 at the beginning of 2013.
It said that China began to develop its own catapult for the aircraft carrier it planned to build but lacked key technology to make such catapult; therefore, China scrapped its original plan for a carrier for horizontal taking off of aircraft and began instead to develop VTOL aircraft.
Soon afterward, US Defense News weekly published an article that believed that China was developing short-distance vertical taking-off and landing stealth fighter jet, i.e. J-18 Red Eagle VTOL fighter jet, with superb stealth function and installed with laser active phased array radar, internal weapon bays and two vector engines with great thrust.
The Japanese and American reports, though sensational in nature and supplemented by later reports, are but speculation. There had been no evidence on the existence of J-18 whatever until now when Britain’s Jane’s Defense Review published a report on the fighter containing a recent photocopied from a post at a Chinese military forum on the Internet. Judging by the photo given by Jane’s, J-18 looks almost the same as J-31 except for its canard structure. This gives people the impression that it is a VTOL version of J-31. It sounds reasonable as developing a VTOL version saves money than the development of an aircraft from nothing. This is also the case with US F-35 stealth fighter jet. It has three versions including a VTOL version.
Information about J-18 VTOL Stealth Fighter Jet
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 information on these developments.
Under the Snowy Owl nomenclature, China is said to be secretly developing a triplane-canard-configurated fighter that has a totally different layout than the J-20, CCTV was quoted by Hong Kong-based Sing Tao Daily as reporting.
Some Chinese online military experts believe that the Snowy Owl fighter is currently being developed by the AVIC Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SIC). Online information regarding the SIC says that it is manufacturing a new type of aircraft whose design uses triplane canard configuration, Chinese netizens reported. The aircraft has a fixed vertical wing, and the engine has rhomboidal nozzles, according to the CCTV report, adding that the design renders the aircraft lighter than most of the fourth generation fighters.
The “J-18” might simply be the J-15 Chinese copy of the Su-33 that appeared in a naval paint job around the same time the J-18 rumors surfaced.
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 Anglo-American AV-8 Harrier jump jet. For comparison, other planes with a vertical takeoff and landing capabilities include the Soviet Yakovlev Yak-141, which weighs 19.5 tons, and the American F-35B, which weighs 22.5 tons.
Flight Internation reported in early 2013 about poor quality images allegedly 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 the 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 preceded 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. 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.