By David Crane
defrev (at) gmail (dot) com
November 28, 2010
This one’s been coming for awhile. According to reports in multiple publications, it would appear that China is quickly closing the UAS/UAV (Unmanned Aircraft System/Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) gap currently enjoyed by the United States and Israel. More than 25 different Chinese UAS/UAV designs (and up to 40-50) were recently on display at the Airshow China 2010 (a.k.a. Zhuhai Airshow 2010), according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), DefenseNews, FlightGlobal, and other publications.
Apparently, several of the Chinese UAS models are designed to be weaponized with missiles, and one, designated the WJ600 (also written WJ-600), is jet-powered. Being jet-powered, the WJ-600 “stealthy” UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle) can most likely fly faster than the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper weaponized UAVs/UAS, which are propeller-powered and armed with AGM-114R multi–purpose HELLFIRE II missiles.
DefenseNewspublished information on the China Aviation Industry Corp. (AVIC) Pterodactyl I UAV, TL-8 training drone, Night Eagle and SW-1 short-range, fixed-wing reconnaissance drones (UAS/UAVs), and Whirlwind Scout ducted-fan VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) UAS. The AVIC TL-8 is reportedly capable of achieving 0.85 Mach with a maximum flight time of 40 minutes, and is capable of simulating second and third-generation fighter aircraft and cruise missiles.
Defense News also reported that China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC) displayed a full-scale model of an armed/weaponized CH-3 UAV outfitted with air-to-ground missiles and CASC CH-803 multipurpose UAV, which can perform battlefield reconnaissance, fire adjustment, intelligence collection and EW missions. DefenseNews reports that the CH-3 UAS “can be modified as an unmanned attack platform to carry small precision guided weapons for performing reconnaissance/strike missions. The CH-3 has a cruising speed of 220 kilometers per hour, 12-hour maximum endurance and a 200 kilometer communications radius.”
Considering China’s ever-increasing economic, industrial, technical, and scientific advancements in recent years, advancements that show no signs of subsiding or slowing down, it would seem only logical that China should close the UAS/UAV technology gap at some point. The question is, how long will it be before supersonic and hypersonic U.S. and Chinese UAS weaponized with ramjet air-to-air missiles and weapons-grade lasers are going head-to-head in the skies above Taiwan and/or North Korea in a future robot proxy war? Who knows. But, if/when it happens, it should be interesting.
Photo Credit: FlightGlobal.com
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