Un­manned at­tack/re­con he­li­copter takes flight

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHAO LEI in Bei­jing zhaolei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China is pro­mot­ing an un­manned re­con­nais­sance/ com­bat he­li­copter in the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket, fur­ther ex­pand­ing the scope of its mil­i­tary drones of­fered to for­eign buy­ers.

Avi­a­tion In­dus­try Corp of China, the State-owned air­craft gi­ant, has put its AV500W un­manned au­ton­o­mous he­li­copter on dis­play at the fourth China He­li­copter Expo that opened on Thurs­day in Tianjin.

The 7.2-meter-long air­craft, de­vel­oped and pro­duced at the AVIC He­li­copter Re­search and De­vel­op­ment In­sti­tute in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi prov­ince, has a max­i­mum take­off weight of 450 kilo­grams, a max­i­mum speed of 170 kilo­me­ters per hour and a flight ceil­ing of 4,000 me­ters, ac­cord­ing to the in­sti­tute.

The he­li­copter is ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing 120 kg of weapons and equip­ment. Its re­con­nais­sance ver­sion can re­main aloft for eight hours while the re­con­nais­sance/com­bat model is able to fly four hours.

All of the mil­i­tary drones China has of­fered to the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket have been fixed-wing mod­els, mak­ing the AV500W the first Chi­nese un­manned mil­i­tary he­li­copter avail­able in that mar­ket, ob­servers said.

An armed AV500W typ­i­cally car­ries four air-to-ground mis­siles, which use radar hom­ing tech­nol­ogy for guid­ance. Each mis­sile weighs 8 kg and can hit a tar­get 5 km away, the in­sti­tute said. It also can carry bombs or a machine-gun pod.

The he­li­copter fea­tures good mo­bil­ity, pen­e­tra­tion ca­pa­bil­ity and a high level of au­to­ma­tion and has a stealth de­sign. A typ­i­cal mis­sion would be a pre­ci­sion at­tack on light-duty ar­mored ve­hi­cles and per­son­nel, the in­sti­tute said.

Jiang Taiyu, one of the chief de­sign­ers of AV500W, said the air­craft fired weapons dur­ing its maiden flight test in Au­gust.

“The he­li­copter is able to take off and land on al­most any land­form in­clud­ing plateaus and canyons. It can

op­er­ate in cold and trop­i­cal en­vi­ron­ments. It will be use­ful in bor­der pa­trols, coun­tert­er­ror­ism op­er­a­tions and low-in­ten­sity con­flicts be­cause it can carry out very-low-al­ti­tude pen­e­tra­tion and keep hov­er­ing for a while,” he said.

The de­signer added that all of the he­li­copter’s tests will be fin­ished be­fore the end of this year and it will be ready for mass-pro­duc­tion in 2018.

“Sev­eral na­tions have told us that they are in­ter­ested in this air­craft. This is be­cause there are a very small num­ber of un­manned he­li­copters in the world that can per­form strikes, while de­mand for such types is not small,” Jiang said. He said only the United States and Is­rael have de­vel­oped un­manned armed he­li­copters, such as the Northrop Grum­man MQ-8B Fire Scout in the US.

The AV500W’s tar­get mar­ket will be coun­tries deal­ing with ter­ror­ism such as in the Mid­dle East, he said.

Fang Yonghong, di­rec­tor of un­manned air­craft tech­nol­ogy at AVIC He­li­copter Re­search and De­vel­op­ment In­sti­tute, said many na­tions in Europe, Africa and the Mid­dle East face huge pres­sure to ramp up their coun­tert­er­ror­ism ef­forts, so they need good, af­ford­able equip­ment such as the AV500W.

More than 400 he­li­copter pro­duc­ers and parts sup­pli­ers from 22 na­tions and re­gions — such as the US, Rus­sia and France — are tak­ing part in the he­li­copter expo, the largest of its kind in China. They brought 98 air­craft to the event. He­li­copters from the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army Ground Force and AVIC con­ducted flight demon­stra­tions at the open­ing cer­e­mony on Thurs­day morn­ing.

JIA LEI / FOR CHINA DAILY

The Fen­glei aer­o­bat­ics team of the PLA Ground Force per­forms at the fourth China He­li­copter Expo open­ing cer­e­mony on Thurs­day in Tianjin. More than 400 he­li­copters from 22 coun­tries and re­gions were on dis­play at the expo.

ZHAO LEI / CHINA DAILY

The AV500W un­manned au­ton­o­mous he­li­copter is on dis­play at the fourth China He­li­copter Expo in Tianjin.

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