MAKS 2019: Stealthy Chinese Target, and Iranian Cruise Missile

 - September 6, 2019, 5:13 AM
The LJ-I aerial target is intended to emulate both manned aircraft and large missiles such as the SLAM-ER. (photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

Chinese companies Xian CCKW and the Northwestern Polytechnic University (NPU) have jointly developed the LJ-I stealthy target drone, with an aerodynamic layout and maneuvering qualities reminiscent of fourth-generation fighters. The product was on display inside China’s national pavilion and was making its international show debut at MAKS 2019.

The LJ-I is intended to simulate a hostile aircraft or air-launched munitions for missile and gunnery practice in various “battlefield complexities" conditions, as the developers put it. Measuring 4.74 meters (about 16 feet) in length, the air vehicle has a radar cross-section (RCS) in the X-band below 0.02 square meters (0.215 square feet), making it a difficult target to detect and track.

The modular design of the payload section enables the drone to carry a radar-jamming system, chaff and flare dispenser, and complex decoys weighing up to 40 kg (88 pounds) combined. Trajectory control is carried out with the help of autonomous navigation and radio commands, with the capability for “pilot-in-the-loop” and “multi-aircraft formation” operations.

On a typical mission, the LJ-I can cruise at altitudes between 100 and 10,000 meters (328 and 32,800 feet) at a speed of Mach 0.6 to 0.8, with a maximum flight endurance of one hour. Among specific targets the drone can emulate, the developers mention the Boeing AGM-84 Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response (SLAM-ER). Mission equipment enables the realistic emulation of various combat scenarios. When necessary to simulate an agile enemy fighter, the LJ-I can execute maneuvers with instantaneous g-load factors of up to 9, or sustain 6g for 30 seconds.

Although outwardly the LJ-I appears to be turbojet-powered, publicity material mentions a solid-fuel rocket motor. The drone is launched from a rail, lands with a parachute and can be re-used multiple times.

Iran’s Mobin unmanned air vehicle can be armed with a warhead to act as a cruise missile, or with a sensor package to serve as an ISR platform. (photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

Another interesting exhibit at MAKS 2019 was the Mobin cruise missile, which is also available in a tactical UAV version that can perform battlefield reconnaissance. The product was on display in model form at the stand of the Iran Aviation Industries Organization (IAIO). According to the manufacturer, the missile has passed trials and entered service. On a typical mission, the Mobin would cruise at a height of 10 meters (33 feet) above the ground for a maximum of 45 minutes while carrying a payload of up to 120 kg (264 pounds). It features “terminal phase guidance” and is capable of “terrain contour matching.”

Top-ranking members in the Iranian delegation said that Tehran and Moscow are negotiating a number of defense deals to be finalized next year, when the term of UN international sanctions on Iran expires. According to them, Russia is interested in Iranian UAVs and may procure a number of them for various applications as a part of “reciprocal trade.”