Thursday, February 17, 2011

FC-20 M-MRCA Emerges


FC-20 M-MRCA Emerges

China’s Sichuan-based Chengdu Aerospace Corp (CAC) and its affiliated 611 Institute has begun a hectic but structured flight-test programme for the FC-20 medium multi-role combat aircraft (M-MRCA), whose launch export customer is the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). The PAF has an initial requirement for 36 single-seaters and four tandem-seat operational conversion trainers, and envisages a total requirement for 80 FC-20s distributed among four squadrons. The first single-seat FC-20 prototype was rolled out by CAC last December and it made its maiden flight last March. Derived from the CAC-built J-10A Vigorous Dragon M-MRCA, the FC-20 incorporates an undernose modified lightweight air inlet, redesigned vertical tailfin, strengthened underwing inner pylons designed for carrying standoff precision-guided munitions (PGM) like the glide kit-equipped LS-6, nose-mounted infra-red search-and-track (IRST) system, a glass cockpit equipped with a holographic wide-angle heads-up display (HUD), a pair of inverted-gull wings (with the inner upper portion extending slightly downward, while the outer portion extending flat), a fixed in-flight refuelling probe, a large vertical tail, twin ventral stabilisers for providing greater stability at high angles of attack, and a single AL-31FN-M1 turbofan engine rated at 132.4kN thrust with afterburning. In August 2005 China had inked a US$300 million contract in with Russia’s Rosoboronexport State Corp to acquire an initial 100 such engines. The entire R & D phase of the FC-20 is being carried out under the oversight of China’s state-owned China Aviation Industry Corp (AVIC).

The FC-20 will be able to carry 4.5 tonnes of weapons payload, and will come equipped with 11 hardpoints for carrying a wide range of air combat missiles (both within-visual-range and beyond-visual-range) and PGMs. The FC-20’s performance parameters include a maximum combat radius of 2,540km (1,370nm) in a hi-lo-hi mission profile, or of 1,310km (710nm) in a lo-lo-lo mission profile when carrying a 1,810kg (4,000lb) weapons payload.

The M-MRCA will have an empty weight of 9,750kg, maximum takeoff weight of 19,277kg, internal fuel capacity of 4,500kg, maximum speed of Mach 2 at high altitude and Mach 1.2 at sea level, takeoff run of 500 metres, combat radius of 1,100km, and a service ceiling of 18,000 metres. The FC-20 has a wingspan of 8.78 metres, overall length of 14.57 metres, height of 4.78 metres, and a gross wing area of 33.1 square metres. The airframe features high-quality welding, but is overwhelmingly of metallic construction, with composites accounting for only 12% of the fuselage area. CAC and its affiliated 611 Institute are now preparing to roll-out a tandem-seat deep interdictor variant of the FC-20, which, like the single-seater, will be equipped with a laser target acquisition/designation pod, laser-/GPS-guided PGMs, as well as PL-9C within-visual-range and PL-12 beyond-visual-range air combat missiles built by the Luoyang Opto-Electro Technology Development Centre. Design of this variant of the FC-20 is derived from the J-10B operational conversion trainer that made its maiden flight on December 26, 2003.

The FC-20’s tandem-seat variant will feature a stretched forward fuselage and a single-piece bubble canopy. Its dorsal spine will be enlarged to accommodate those avionics displaced by the rear cockpit. The PAF is widely expected to equip its FC-20s with the SELEX Galileo-built X-band Vixen 500E airborne active phased-array fire-control radar.

The glass cockpit avionics suite will includes a wide-angle holographic HUD with up-front control panel and a video camera, twin monochrome AMLCD-based multifunction displays, a single colour AMLCD head-down display, infra-red sensors for a helmet-mounted sight, hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) controls, ring-laser-gyro-based inertial navigation system, air data computer, ARW-9101A radar warning receiver, Type 634 digital quadruplex fly-by-wire flight control system using a MIL-STD-1553B digital data bus, and a digital fuel management system and stores management system.

The FC-20’s compound delta-wing configuration will offer two important aerodynamic qualities. The swept leading edge of the wing will stay ahead of the shock-wave generated by the FC-20’s nose during supersonic flight, thus making the compound delta-wing a very efficient aerodynamic wing shape for supersonic flight. The leading edge of compound delta-wing will also generate a massive vortex that will attach itself to the upper surface of the wing during high angle-of-attack (AoA) manoeuvres, resulting in very high stall points.

The FC-20’s leading edge extensions at the root of the leading edge of the main wings will remain out of airflow in cruise flight and will be used during high AoA manoeuvres to generate a high-speed vortex that will stay attached to the top of the main wing. This in turn will maintain a low-pressure zone over the upper surface of the wing, generating lift beyond what would have been the stall point for a single delta-wing. The compound delta-wing has another quality significant for the FC-20: this wing profile offers increased survivability by having increased structural and airflow stability.

The FC-20’s twin canard surfaces, unlike a conventional tailplane which they have replaced, will generate positive lift. During high AoA manoeuvres the canard surfaces will stall first. This will cause the nose of the aircraft to pitch down and prevent the main wing from stalling—a valuable feature for a combat aircraft. At the same time, however, the canard surfaces will create a downwash which will degrade the main wing’s performance. Canards will also make it very difficult to apply flaps: normally, extending flaps causes a downward movement of the nose, which is compensated by the tailplane. However, in the FC-20’s case, there is no tailplane and therefore there is nothing required to compensate for the effect of the flaps.

PGMs to be carried by the FC-20 will include China National Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp’s (CPMIEC) C-704 anti-ship cruise missile with 35km range, the C-802KD air-launched anti-ship cruise missile with 120km range, YJ-91 supersonic anti-ship cruise missile with 70km range and the YJ-98 supersonic anti-radiation missile with 200km range, 500kg FT-1 GPS-guided bomb, 250kg FT-3 GPS-guided bomb, and the LS-6 500kg bomb that is fitted with glide kit comprising twin pop-out wings. The LS-6 has a range of 40km when launched from an altitude of 30,000 feet.

Yet another air-launched PGM that will be carried by the FC-20 is the 500kg LT-2 laser-guided bomb, currently operational with the PLA Navy’s JH-7As and the PLAAF’s Q-5M tactical strike aircraft. Laser target acquisition-cum-designation for this bomb will be provided by a pod developed and built by CLETRI. The LT-2 is essentially a licence-built KAB-500L laser-guided bomb that has a nominal weight of 500kg (1,102lb), and comes fitted with a semi-active laser seeker and guidance fins, turning it into a guided, unpowered glide bomb.

Source : Tempur

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