The Dark Sword model portrays an elongated delta airframe with highly swept aft-mounted wings. It has four cantilevered tail fins, the larger two of which are mounted at the top of the main delta wing, with the other two mounted beneath. The forward fuselage is dominated by an extremely large belly-mounted intake and two apparently retractable canards.
No size or powerplant notions have been released for the design. The large intake is consistent with Western concepts for fourth-generation turbofan-powered fighters optimised for use in close combat roles. Its shape also clearly reflects a desire to reduce radar cross section, but its location and size is at odds with the bulk of Western thinking about UCAV signature suppression, which has seen the uniform adoption of above-fuselage intakes. It also contrasts with other notional Chinese UCAV designs that have emerged from the nation’s AVIC 1 industrial grouping, with these tending to illustrate air vehicles similar to those now under development by European and US industry.
The aircraft’s rear fuselage poses other questions: unlike the rest of the airframe, the area around where the engine nozzle would be located has simply been left as a vertical surface with a recess indicating the exhaust. This contrasts with the considerable efforts made at streamlining the remainder of the design, as it would generate considerable drag.
The inclusion of the canard surfaces reiterates the development links between current Chinese manned fighter aircraft. Western UCAV designs in contrast rely on inherent airframe instability and advanced fly-by-wire controls, leading to completely tailless configurations. However, all current Western UCAV designs are optimised for suppression of enemy air defences, rather than air-to-air combat, which is seen as a long-term operational capability, rather than an immediate development priority. In this respect the Dark Sword concept is being pitched against a mission that Western developers do not expect to emerge for at least another two decades.