The Chinese aviation industry has begun testing a short-takeoff, vertical-landing naval fighter optimized for small aircraft carriers, according to English-language military trade publications. The reports last week cited rumors circulated by Chinese aviation blogs. “It is difficult to substantiate Internet chatter,” U.S.-based Defense News cautioned.
But “given the PLA’s naval power-projection ambitions, it is probable there is (a) VSTOL or STOVL (short-takeoff and vertical-landing) fighter program,” Richard Fisher, from the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Washington, D.C., told the publication.
The reports raise as many questions as they answer. If they’re true, it’s unclear why the Chinese navy would even want a vertical-landing fighter, considering the limitations associated with such designs — and also considering China’s many alternatives to a so-called “jump jet.”