China’s Top Military Drones to Watch in 2017
China continues to develop its military drone capability with new technology like the strike-capable UAV CH-5 and the UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle) Sharp Sword, as well as progressing in the development of swarm drone designs.
CH-5 Strike UAV
The CH-5, which visually looks similar to the US military’s MQ-9 Reaper, is also known as the Cai Hong-5 and Rainbow 5 is designed to perform reconnaissance, surveillance, targeting, intelligence gathering, electronic warfare, border patrol, island defense and anti-terrorism missions.
It is the largest reconnaissance and strike drone developed by China, according to the Chinese Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).
The top video shows its maiden flight in August 2015.
The CH-5 was first shown to the public during Airshow China 2016, held in Zhuhai in November 2016. According to a Jane’s 360 article, it can carry as many as 16 air-to-ground weapons with a max payload capacity of 1,200 kg. Also when equipped with the 330 hp heavy-fuel engine (HFE) option it can obtain an operating endurance of up to 60 hours. The HFE also enables the CH-5 to achieve a maximum speed of over 300 km/h, with a service ceiling of 30,000 ft (7,000 m).
Image and Source: YouTube/CCTV+
Sharp Sword UCAV
An integral component of future air warfare looks to include Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAV) like the X47B, Taranis, nEUROn, and Sharp Sword. China’s stealthy attack drone, the Sharp Sword, is built by Aviation Industry Corporation of China, with much of the work done by the Hongdu Aviation Industry Group. The Sharp Sword first flew in November 2013. Looking a bit like a mini-B-2 flying wing bomber, the UCAV has two internal bomb bays and a likely payload of about 2,000 kg (4,400 pounds). The jet-powered drone has a wingspan of 14 meters. Possible missions would including reconnaissance and eventually combat missions.
READ MORE: UCAV projects from around the world
China is also developing swarm drone technology. At the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition (Airshow China) in November 2016, China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC) displayed their swarming fixed-wing drone technology. Also, earlier their prototype swarm drone solution claimed a record of 67 fixed wing drones flying together. According to a Popular Mechanics article, the drones used were fixed wing Skywalker X6 from China based Skywalker Technologies.
READ MORE: Swarm drone solutions from around the world.