The following is a translation from Chinese media, with commentary:
China Youth Daily, the mouthpiece of China’s Communist Youth League, published an article by an expert from the National Defence University that provided detailed information about China’s unmanned aerial vehicles. I believe it is quite an authoritative source of information about Chinese drones. The following is a summary of the article:
China began development of drones very early compared to other countries, in the late 1950s. The first drone China developed was an unmanned target aircraft to replace a Soviet one for pilot training.
The first high-speed target drone, the CK-1, conducted its maiden flight on December 6, 1966. There were a series of improved versions of the CK-1 from 1966 to 1988.
In the decade after 1988, China developed and commissioned the T-6 general-purpose drones, the Z-5 series of reconnaissance drones and the ASN series drones.
China’s military drones began to emerge in various types and large number in 2006. There were the Xianglong high-altitude high-speed reconnaissance drone similar to US Global Hawk, the Tianying-3 unmanned helicopter and the Anjian drone, which is very similar to a US stealth bomber.
Since then, China has made rapid progress in developing drones and turned out the Changying long-range military drone, the CH-3 drone, the Lanhu drone and the ASN-229A drone with world advanced technology. China also developed the Lijian and other stealth drones.
China’s Four Star Drones
1. The Yilong medium-altitude, long-range reconnaissance-attack multi-purpose drone is China’s newest drone with China’s best technology.
It is similar to the USAF’s MQ-1B Predator. Its maximum takeoff weight is 1100 kg. It weighs 1.1 metric ton, is 9 meters long, has a range of 4,000 km and a ceiling of 5,000 meters, can remain in the air for 20 hours and carries China-made KD-10 laser guided missiles and LS-6 GPS.
2. The CH-4 medium-altitude long-range drone, a large reconnaissance-attack military drone that can carry the heaviest load among drones of the same class. It is the Chinese version of US Reaper.
It conducts theatre reconnaissance to collect information about enemy operations and give over-the-horizon warnings, and can conduct electronic war and accurate attack at fixed and slow-moving targets on the ground
It is characterised by hree elements: First, an excellent platform with maximum takeoff weight for 1,330 km, maximum load of 345kg, ceiling of 8,000 meters and maximum cruise duration of 38 hours, all better than the US Predator. Second, it has a combination of the functions of reconnaissance and attack. Its radar enables it to have strong all-weather fighting/detecting capabilities while its missiles can attack ground and surface targets from the height of 5,000 meters without diving down. Third, it is highly intelligent, able to take off and land automatically and thus very reliable. It can lock on its target while flying and then attack with its missile or guided bomb.
3. The Gongji-1 drone. It is a reconnaissance-attack drone in service in the PLA air force, a new favourite in IT warfare. It has a single engine and the pneumatic design of large aspect ratio, straight wings and V-shaped tail that enables it to conduct sustained reconnaissance, and monitor and attack in a theatre with low threat. Its laser indicator and photoelectric reconnaissance and monitor equipment can not only guide the anti-tank missiles it can launch, but also provide instruction about targets to guide the weapons on other aircraft and ground targets. The drone is combat capable now.
4. The WJ-600 high-altitude, high-speed drone. It is a large drone like a cruise missile in shape, installed with various advanced electronic reconnaissance equipment for photoelectric reconnaissance and a synthetic aperture radar. It can also carry two KD-2 air-to-ground missiles to become a killer in the air. A WJ-600 can also serve as a communication relay to enable ground command centre to control through it the SH-1 stealth drone and Blade series of drones, so as to merge various functions of combat operation such as reconnaissance, communication, command and attack for integrated combat operation of reconnaissance, control, attack and assessment.
Source: China Youth Daily “Rapid development of Chinese drones: CH-4 surpasses US Predator in all aspects” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)
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