Airshow China in Zhuhai in mid-November, including fixed- and
rotary-wing designs. While most of the systems appear to be aimed at
intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance applications, several
were depicted carrying missiles.
Among the more notable armed mock-ups were those
on view at the stands of AVIC and the China Aerospace and Science
Corporation (COSIC). However, with officials from both organisations
unavailable to comment on the projects, their stage of development – or
deployment – is uncertain.
AVIC’s Pterodactyl appears to be all but
identical to the General Atomics Predator A, complete with a V tail, a
large nose with an under-slung sensor dome and two missiles similar to
Lockheed Martin’s AGM-114 Hellfire. AVIC says the design has “medium to
long endurance,” but fails to provide specifics.
Perhaps the most visually striking armed UAV on show was COSIC’s
CH-3, which has its wings mounted toward the rear of its fuselage and
large forward canards with control surfaces.
Data displayed by the company claims a maximum take-off weight of 640kg
(1,410lb), a top speed of 220kt (407km/h) and an endurance of 12h, with
a communications radius of 108nm (200km). The CH-3 can also carry two
precision-guided air-to-surface weapons.
COSIC also exhibited a larger design with what appeared to be
anti-ship missiles, with the system potentially similar to the Northrop
Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk.
A diagram showed the WJ-600 scanning a large area of ocean and
providing a data nexus for weapons platforms including aircraft, ships,
submarines and shore-based missile batteries. The UAV was also depicted
destroying a helicopter and a ground target with its missiles.
ASN Technology displayed a model of its ASN-229A armed UAV, with
this also carrying two Hellfire-type weapons. The design has a bulbous
nose, under-fuselage sensor dome and a twin-tail configuration.
The display model featured a skid landing gear, but the type could also
be launched with a rocket booster and recovered by parachute. ASN says
the design has a maximum take-off weight of 800kg including a 100kg
mission payload, and a mission endurance of 20h.
The company, which claims to produce 90% of China’s UAVs, says the model is close to entering service.
“The ASN-229A is still in its testing phase, but we expect it to be
ready by the end of next year,” says an industry source, who adds:
“China is investing significant resources in its UAV programmes.”
Further evidence of the nation’s interest in
unmanned systems was widespread, with several designs bearing a close
resemblance to Western and Israeli designs.
These included COSIC’s 6.5kg hand-launched CH-802, reminiscent of
AeroVironment’s legacy Pointer, and AVIC’s Night Eagle, which shares
common design features with the Australian-developed Aerosonde series.
In the rotorcraft sector, an unmanned development named the V750 was
on show. With a rotor diameter of 7.24m (23.7ft), this has a 750kg
maximum take-off weight including an 80kg mission payload and a
reported service ceiling of 9,840ft.
Also on display was a V-tailed non-military design dubbed the SL-200.
This was shown with three smoke pipes installed under each wing, with
these intended to generate artificial precipitation. Exhibit material
says the 180kg design could be flown to an altitude of 19,700ft.