China Shows Off UAV Capabilities at Zhuhai

 - November 9, 2018, 3:48 AM
As depicted in company literature, the CASC CH-7 is a large, stealthy UCAV design. (photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) continue to capture the attention of both local and foreign visitors to the Zhuhai Airshow 2018, as both state-owned and private companies offer new unmanned solutions at a pace not seen in the West. Of particular interest is the CaiHong (Rainbow)-7, developed by the 11th Research Institute of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).

A significant shift in design concept from the earlier and highly successful CaiHong Unmanned Combat Aircraft Vehicle (UCAV) family, which has gained several export orders (with Algeria being recently confirmed as an operator of the CH-4), the jet-powered CH-7 is described as a high-altitude, long-endurance, stealth platform with significant penetration capabilities." The flying wing measures 72 feet (22 meters) wide and has a maximum takeoff weight (mtow) of 13 tonnes, payload of 2 tonnes, and top speed of Mach 0.75.

While the aircraft remains in the developmental stage, a corporate video shows that first flight is planned for 2019 and it will enter production by 2022. If successful, it will validate the capabilities of China to develop a fly-by-wire flight system for a large, tailless flying wing and could even pave the way for the country’s next-generation H-20 bomber project. 

China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), on the other hand, unveiled the jet-powered WJ-700 high-altitude, high-speed UCAV. The design strongly resembles the MQ-9 Reaper and CH-5 UCAV, with a jet replacing the rear-mounted propeller. Based on literature shown at the Zhuhai Airshow, the WJ-700 has an mtow of 3.5 tonnes, and endurance of 20 hours. CASIC describes the WJ-700 as designed for long-range anti-ship missions, anti-radiation missions, as well as electronic warfare and jamming. The concept model suggests four underwing pylons for a variety of munitions, including the CM-502KG anti-ship missile and the CM-102 anti-radiation missile. 

Another notable UAV concept is the JY-300 unmanned early warning UAV from the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC)’s 38th Research Institute. Unveiled in a radar exhibition this June, the JY-300 features miniaturized phased-array radar strips installed on the two sides of the fuselage and the leading edge of the wings. Unlike most conventional UAVs with a radar payload, the integrated and conformal design of the JY-300 reduces drag and thus retains most of the UAV’s inherent flight performances.

CETC says the radar has a range of around 620 miles (1,000 km) and can provide surveillance of hostile ships, helicopters, and missiles from a stand-off range. Additionally, the UAV presents a smaller radar cross-section, and the unmanned and cheaper nature of the platform allows the user to free up heavier manned AEW platforms for more critical operations.