Not long ago, we shared the news of two Romanian inventors who claim to have built a working prototype of what could be the world’s first fully functional hypersonic flying saucer. This week, military aviation site Alert-5 caused quite a buzz among UFO and aviation enthusiasts when it shared several images of a curiously shaped craft it labeled a “Chinese UFO.” The following day, state-run Chinese media outlet Global Times wrote that the attack chopper has a name: the “Super Great White Shark.”
Described as a “sci-fi like aircraft “ by Chinese media, designers say the Super Great White Shark’s “high-speed and stealth capabilities could give the weapon an edge on the battlefield.” But aerospace engineers and aviation historians say that the aircraft’s design isn’t new, and that it’s unlikely it’ll ever actually get very far off the ground.
Making its big debut at last week’s China Helicopter Exposition in Tianjin, a nearby information placard described the rotorcraft as an “armed helicopter” featuring “a composite wing-body fusion high-speed helicopter configuration designed for the future digital information battlefield.” Also dubbed “Super Jaws” by Chinese media, designers say the craft “refers to the international excellent and mature helicopter design technologies” and specifically names the US’s AH-64 Apache and CH-53 Sea Stallion, along with Russia’s Ka-52 and Mi-26. It’s unknown how these other traditional rotorwing designs compare with the “The Great White Shark,” As two of the listed models are attack helicopters, and the others are heavy transport aircraft.
English translations from an accompanying schematic say the"Super Great White Shark" will capable of traveling a little over 400 mph with a maximum ceiling of almost 20,000 feet. The concept rotorcraft has “two turbojet engines that could provide huge horizontal thrust for high speed movement”and the “fuselage is coated with stealth materials,” claims Chinese media.
While designers describe the craft as making use of “internationally popular wing-body fusion design’ to create “a new type of high-speed helicopter,” at present, the Super Great White Shark doesn’t appear to show many differences from ducted-fan aircraft designs attempted and later abandoned by the United States military over 60 years ago.
Using the same general concept to achieve lift and thrust as conventional rotor based aircraft, instead of mounting propellers on the outside, ducted-fan vehicles contain internal propellers within a larger housing. Throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Army and NASA experimented with several aircraft with ducted-fan based propulsion systems. It was relatively quickly determined that, in comparison to conventional airplanes and helicopters, there were no real advantages to a ducted-fan based aircraft.
Notably, the Super Great White Shark bears a striking resemblance to the U.S. Air Force, and later Army’s, most famous attempt at creating a saucer-shaped aircraft and the Avro Canada VZ-9 Avrocar. Not technically based on ducted-fan propulsion, the Avrocar attempted to use the so-called Coanda effect by using three jet blowing exhausts through the craft’s circular rim to achieve lift and thrust. When initial Air Force visions of a Mach 3.5 fighter called the “Y-2” were deemed dangerously unrealistic, the Army envisioned a tempered version of the flying saucer design—the Avrocar—as being a single replacement for both the jeep and helicopter. After three years of development, the Avrocar program was cancelled, with the saucer shaped craft never traveling more than 35mph and 3 feet off the ground.
Even with one of the more recent promising flying saucer designs, the All Directions Flying Object or ADIFO, designers admit their novel approach of using vectored jet-propulsion is merely a prototype and presently is little more than a remote control drone.
Admittedly still a prototype itself, China hasn’t explained exactly how Super Great White Shark will succeed where all others have failed.
Nevertheless, developers say it will be ready to take its maiden flight at the 2020 Airshow China, in the South China Guangdong Province town of Zhuhai.