China Reveals Aerodynamic Supremacy over the US with New Hypersonic Drone

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New incredibly maneuverable Chinese hypersonic drone has allegedly outperformed the American Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 “Raptor” fighter, which could mean a great challenge for existing aerial defense systems.

Beijing-based researchers claim that the new hypersonic drone has a lift-to-drag ratio of 8.4 at subsonic speeds. According to Interesting Engineering, this ratio is an important metric for measuring an aircraft’s aerodynamic efficiency – the higher the value, the better an aircraft can stay airborne and travel greater distances.

Senior Federal Aviation Administration aerospace engineer William Oehlschlager explains that the F-22 can achieve a maximum lift-to-drag ratio of 8.4. the South China Morning Post reports that China’s new hypersonic drone can maintain a lift-to-drag ratio higher than 4 while cruising at 6 times the speed of sound, indicating superior aerodynamic efficiency compared to the F-22.

This claim follows the recent wind tunnel testing of the hypersonic drone model led by researcher Zhang Chenan from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. This hypersonic drone’s performance allows it to maneuver easily even in a thin, high-altitude atmosphere, thus challenging missile defense systems that rely on predicting flight paths. The drone’s design, though not revealed, allegedly resembles the MD-22 hypersonic vehicle.

The MD-22 was revealed in 2019. It is a reusable hypersonic technology test platform for near-space applications that offers an ultra-long range and high maneuverability. It can deliver a 600 kg payload up to 8,000 km at 8,644 kph (the distance between China and the US). It can be both powered by an air-breathing engine for takeoff on airport runways or vertically launched from a rocket launch site.

The new and revolutionary model published by Zhang’s team is significantly larger than the MD-22, with a length of 12 meters and a wingspan of nearly 6 meters.