Images have appeared on a Chinese website of a new large twin-fuselage turbofan-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that could serve as a new high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) multi-mission platform.
Reportedly produced by the 601 Institute of the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC), the large twin-fuselage UAV concept, called 'Project 973' or 'Shen Diao' ('Divine Eagle'), has been the subject of speculative conceptual drawings since 2012.
These drawings showed a leading-edge mounted canard-wing configuration, but indicated platform was to perform as a high-altitude near space vehicle conducting surveillance, cuing, and communication missions.
What may be the first actual images, however, show the UAV employs two bulbous-nosed fuselages while the canard wing is mounted between them but not at the leading edge. A much longer high-aspect ratio wing is mounted aft and an apparent high-bypass turbofan is mounted between two large vertical stabilisers.
Some early speculative images indicated the UAV would carry a large metre-wave antennae mounted between the fuselages for counter-stealth missions. However, it is also likely that radar arrays and electro-optical systems could be mounted inside the fuselages.
Chinese sources indicate the 'Divine Eagle' was at least influenced from SAC discussions with the Sukhoi Aircraft Corporation, perhaps early in the last decade. In the late 1990s Sukhoi stared developing a concept for a similar large canard twin-fuselage HALE UAV called the S-62.