To understand the concept please consider the following aerodynamic review that outlines the superior flight characteristics of an aircraft with canards and trailing vertical stabilisers:
*You will note that the design here is not really the same as the J-20 but is heavily modified so that it is optimised for High Alpha manoeuvring. I also realise that small scale models do not necessarily translate well into larger airframes. Nevertheless I believe there is something to be gained from this demonstration in terms of trailing vertical stabilisers and canard combination.
[See this link for an expanded flight testing report.]
Also included in the design must be thrust vectoring technology that already provides a huge advantage to the F-22A.
With the new US F/A-XX design under development the opportunity has arisen to produce a naval and air force variant of the FJ-23 design. The bottom line, in terms of this design, is that the new aircraft must retain intrinsically superior flying qualities and not sacrifice them towards having an ultra low stealth signature since Future Radars and IR systems will detect stealthy aircraft more easily.
Briefly, the FJ-23 or F/A-XX should have the following characteristics following on from what I have already covered:
1. It must have Space Between the Engines such as the Su-27 family of aircraft (or the Sukhoi T-50) that can be used to house fuel, a large weapons bay and provide space for rear facing sensors, jammers and decoys.
2. Be designed in two forms from the outset - as a Carrier Based multi-role aircraft (FJ-23A), and a Non-Carrier Based version for the Air Force (FJ-23B), as per what we see with the Dassault Rafale.
3. Be designed as both a Single Seat and Two Seat platform but perhaps not as a UCAV. [It would be wasteful to use manned aircraft as a UCAV whilst other tailor made platforms are available.]:
4. Range comparable or exceeding the Dassault Rafale plus designed to incorporate conformal fuel tanks.
5. Air-to-Air Refuelling incorporating a probe/drogue system with "buddy-buddy" capability.
6. Speed of Mach 2.5+ at altitude.
7. Serviceability and turn around times comparable to the Saab Gripen.
8. Use existing systems as much as possible, if possible – like using Super Hornet undercarriage etc.
These are some of the basic capability and airframe requirements that must be included. Other obvious requirements not listed, that must be considered standard and not necessary to mention, are items such as 9g+ tolerances, glass cockpit, super cruise, AESA radar, 360 degree IRST sensors with the primary sensor to the front, internal (and upgradable) air-to-ground targeting systems, internal gun, off-boresight targeting etc. Furthermore, the development of stealth weapons pods, like the stealthy fuel tanks found on the F-22A, to house AMRAAM or METEOR missiles, must be undertaken.
Option 2: The YF-23
If development of the FJ-23/FA-XX stalls western nations that want a competent 5th Generation aircraft, who do not want to purchase the Sokhoi T-50, and are barred from purchasing the F-22A, should look at resurrecting the YF-23 through a co-operative development with Northrop-Grumman.
We know the YF-23 was rated similarly to the YF-22 so this aircraft is already a viable option in terms of performance. If the relaunched program utilises members of the original Northrop design team, being led by a small engineering group rather than a political-corporate body, then the program will have a good likelihood of success.
In this eventuality the aircraft produced will be firstly configured as a land-based interceptor with NAVY design consideration taken into account as a secondary matter. The priority is to achieve production of a 5th generation air superiority platform available to countries such as Australia, Canada, the UK and Japan.
Northrop YF-23 Black Widow II
Design Development Notes:
During the design revision process major alterations should be made to extend the main weapons bay on the aircraft to match the layout of the PAK FA, which uses a tandem arrangement stretching down the length of the fuselage. Two smaller cells to compliment the main bay could be positioned at the wing root or at the mid to rear section of the fuselage. Another PAK FA design consideration is the incorporation of movable leading edge extensions to aid super maneuvering capability. Significant structural and systems modifications will be required - particularly the widening of the space between the engines (by at least 8 inches/20 centimeters) to allow for the weapon bay extension.
Development of a two seat variant should make extensive use of the existing F-15E/K cockpit to save on costs. Incorporating proven technology and systems should be the priority throughout the entire process.