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28 Dec 16. China’s second FC-31 fighter prototype makes maiden flight. Images posted on Chinese online forums show what appears to be the second prototype of the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) FC-31 ‘Gyrfalcon’ twin-engine, ‘fifth-generation’ fighter making its maiden flight.
The publication of the images was followed by a China Daily newspaper report quoting an unnamed source as saying that the test flight took place on 23 December – some four years after the first prototype took to the skies – at an airfield in Shenyang belonging to SAC, which is part of Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC).
Billed by AVIC as an export fighter, the first indication that the FC-31 was in advanced construction was its brief appearance in an AVIC video shown at Airshow China 2016, which was held in Zhuhai from 1 to 6 November. Derived from the J-31 fighter prototype, the second version of the multirole fighter had been shown in model form at the 2014 and 2016 Zhuhai shows.
“The new FC-31 seems to have better stealth capabilities, improved electronic equipment, and a larger payload capacity,” Wu Peixin, an aviation industry observer in Beijing, told China Daily .
This image shows some of the differences in design between the latest FC-31 prototype and the J-31 prototype. (Credit: Via CJDBY website)
“Compared with the first FC-31, there are a lot of improvements on the second prototype. Changes were made to the airframe, wings, and vertical tails, which make it leaner, lighter, and more manoeuvrable,” he said.
The aircraft features a much-modified fuselage with an electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) and swept-back vertical stabilisers similar to those used by the Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II. AVIC recently provided new FC-31 specifications at Zhuhai, updating figures leaked at around the time of the September 2015 Beijing Airshow. According to the new specifications, the FC-31’s length has increased to 17.3m from 16.8m, while its maximum take-off weight has increased to 28 tonnes from 25 tonnes. The FC-31 also has an advertised combat radius of 1,250km and can reportedly reach a maximum speed of Mach 1.8 and an altitude of 16km (52,500t). (Source: IHS Jane’s)
27 Dec 16. Bodytrak soldier-monitoring system readies for trials. UK-based Inova Design Solutions’ Bodytrak system is set to undergo trials with the British Army and be used in support of a military charity expedition to Antarctica. Bodytrak uses an in-ear device – akin to an audio earphone – to monitor vital signs from the human body, ultimately to include core body temperature, heart rate, VO 2(oxygen consumption), and motion (speed, distance, cadence), and wirelessly transmits these data to an internet hub or a variety of devices, such as tablets.
The ability to measure core body temperature in a non-invasive manner is a key aspect of the system, Inova CEO Leon Marsh told IHS Jane’s, noting that to get accurate temperature readings a telemetric pill is typically ingested at present. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
26 Dec 16. Chinese Drone Swarms. Although large Predator and Reaper drones are the face of modern militaries, drone swarms—dozens of fixed-wing drones flying in coordinated formation— could be the future of unmanned combat.
As you’d expect, a drone swarm’s advantage relies on the age-old truism of strength in numbers. Where one missile can knock out a multi-million dollar F-35 a swarm can take on casualties and failures and just keep going. If a swarm is big enough, it can overwhelm defenders by attacking with more drones than they can handle.
In the U.S., the Navy’s LOCUST wants to field a swarm of attack drones that would cost collectively less than a single missile, while DARPA works away on its swarming Gremlins and the Air Force’s develops miniature drones that can overwhelm air defenses.
“You have maybe 100 or