Un­manned com­bat drone to be ex­ported

CH-5 is twice as big as its pre­de­ces­sors, can stay in the air for 60 hours and go up to 10 km high

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By ZHAO LEI in Zhuhai, Guang­dong zhaolei@chinadaily.com.cn

China has granted an ex­port li­cense for the CH-5 re­con­nais­sance/com­bat drone, which is be­lieved to be one of the most pow­er­ful un­manned com­bat air­craft in the world.

“Sev­eral for­eign na­tions have ex­pressed in­ten­tions to pur­chase the CH-5, and we are in talks with them,” said Shi Wen, chief de­signer of the Cai­hong, or Rain­bow, se­ries at the China Academy of Aero­space Aero­dy­nam­ics in Bei­jing.

“I can’t tell you more de­tails, ex­cept that the drone is ready for ex­port,” he told China Daily in an ex­clu­sive interview on Mon­day, the day be­fore the 11th China In­ter­na­tional Avi­a­tion and Aero­space Ex­hi­bi­tion, com­monly known as the Zhuhai Air Show, be­gins in Zhuhai, Guang­dong prov­ince.

Com­pared with the United States’ Gen­eral Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, a hunter-killer drone of­ten deemed by West­ern an­a­lysts as the best of its kind, the CH-5 “can per­form what­ever op­er­a­tions the MQ-9 Reaper can, and is even bet­ter than the US ve­hi­cle when it comes to flight du­ra­tion and op­er­a­tional ef­fi­ciency,” Shi said.

“An­other ad­van­tage is that the CH-5 is ca­pa­ble of mak­ing a joint strike to­gether with its pre­de­ces­sors, the CH-3 and CH-4, be­cause they can share the same data link and con­trol sys­tem. There­fore, it is very easy for cur­rent users of the CH-3 and CH-4 to in­tro­duce and in­te­grate the CH-5 into their drone net­work.”

More­over, the CH-5 is able to carry an air­borne early warn­ing sys­tem to act as a plat­form for re­gional sur­veil­lance, and bat­tle­field com­mand and con­trol. It also can carry elec­tronic war­fare in­stru­ments to col­lect elec­tronic in­tel­li­gence and to jam en­emy com­mu­ni­ca­tions or radars.

The CH-5 made its first flight in Au­gust last year, be­com­ing the might­i­est mil­i­tary drone in China in terms of op­er­a­tional en­durance and payload ca­pac­ity.

The drone is made of com­pos­ite ma­te­ri­als and has a wingspan of 21 me­ters. Twice as big as its pre­de­ces­sors in the CH fam­ily, the drone can stay in the air for about 60 hours and op­er­ate at an altitude of up to 10 km, Shi said. Its cur­rent max­i­mum range is 6,500 km, and a fu­ture up­grade will en­able it to fly as far as 10,000 km, he added.

The CH-5 is able to carry 1,000 kg of equip­ment and weapons. It will carry 16 air-to sur­face mis­siles when dis­played at the air show, but its largest ca­pac­ity is 24 mis­siles in a sin­gle flight, en­gi­neers at the academy said.

Com­pared with the pro­to­type for the test flight, the drone’s mass-pro­duc­tion model has a more stream­lined nose and an elec­tro-op­ti­cal in­stru­ment mounted un­der the nose.

Shi said de­sign­ers plan to de­velop a CH-5 that will be ca­pa­ble of stay­ing in the air for up to 120 hours, with a 20,000km range.

The China Academy of Aero­space Aero­dy­nam­ics, part of China Aero­space Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Corp, is China’s largest mil­i­tary drone ex­porter by num­ber of prod­ucts sold over­seas. Its CH-se­ries drones have been sold to mil­i­tary users in more than 10 coun­tries, he said.

Lan Wenbo, project man­ager of the CH-5, said his academy is will­ing to trans­fer tech­nolo­gies to users, an at­trac­tion that West­ern sup­pli­ers do not of­fer.

Other equip­ment from Shi’s academy is the CH-805 high­speed tar­get drone, a fly­ing wing that re­sem­bles the Northrop Grum­man B-2 Spirit. It has a tiny radar sig­na­ture of 0.01 square me­ters, so it can be used for anti-stealth air­craft drills and re­con­nais­sance tasks, ac­cord­ing to academy ma­te­ri­als.

The CH-5 is ca­pa­ble of mak­ing a joint strike to­gether with its pre­de­ces­sors.”

Shi Wen, chief de­signer of the Cai­hong, or Rain­bow


A CH-5 com­bat drone is on public dis­play at the Zhuhai Air Show in Guang­dong prov­ince on Mon­day.

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