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Exclusive : China’s attack reconnaissance drones


Currently, the Chinese industry can create and mass-produce anything. Due to the presence of its own modern radio-electronic base, timely issuance of technical specifications to designers, and generous funding, the Chinese army has multiple advantages over our armed forces in terms of the number of drones available in the troops. In addition to numerous drones of light and middle class, the PLA Air Force and Navy are armed with heavy unmanned vehicles capable of solving both tactical and strategic tasks.

MQ-9 Reaper
MQ-9 Reaper

Given the American MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones’ wide popularity, it would be strange if China did not build vehicles that look like them. In the early 2000s, the CH-4 multipurpose UAV development with a piston engine and a pusher propeller began. This is a fairly large aircraft with a wingspan of 18 m and a length of 9 m. Takeoff weight – 1.3 tons. Maximum speed – 230 km / h, cruising speed – 180 km / h. Flight range 3000 km. The flight duration is more than 30 hours.

UAV SN-4
UAV SN-4
The reconnaissance version received the designation CH-4A, and the shock version is known as CH-4B.

With a low cost (about $ 2 million), it has good export potential. Despite the fact that their characteristics roughly correspond to the Predator removed from service in the United States and are much inferior to the Reaper, many countries are showing interest in Chinese drones. This is since the United States imposes serious restrictions on the supply of combat drones and control systems. Even the closest allies of the United States cannot always acquire them.

The more advanced unmanned drone CH-5 made its first flight in 2016. Observers immediately called it a copy of the American Reaper.

UAV SN-5
UAV SN-5

It is equipped with a 300 hp piston engine. At a maximum flight speed of 310 km / h. Cruising speed – 180-210 kmph. Wingspan – 21 m, glider length – 11 m. Takeoff weight – 3.3 tons. Payload – 1.2 tons. Maximum flight altitude – 7 km. The drone can stay aloft for over 36 hours. The operating range is 250 km. In the case of using satellite control equipment, the range is increased to 2000 km.

The export value is about $ 11 million, which is 2 times cheaper than the American Reaper.

Another copy of the American Predator is Wing Loong. Although, according to the Chinese, this drone is a completely independent development.

Wing loong 1
Wing Loong 1

Wing Loong is a mid-wing with high aspect ratio wings. The tail unit is a single V-shaped stabilizer directed upward from the fuselage (as opposed to the Predator, in which it is directed downward). With a takeoff weight of 1.1 t, it is equipped with a 100 hp piston engine. And is capable of carrying a payload weighing up to 200 kg. Wingspan – 14 m, length – 9.05 m. Maximum speed – 280 km / h, patrol speed 150-180 km / h at an altitude of 5 km.

At the Airshow China 2016, the Wing Loong II UAV was presented to the public. It differs from previous versions in its increased take-off weight to 4.2 tons, larger dimensions, and an increased flight duration of up to 32 hours with a similar layout. The UAV is capable of flying at a speed of 370 km / h at an altitude of up to 9 km.

UAV Wing Loong II
UAV Wing Loong II

China has managed to close the gap with the United States in the creation of medium-sized drones to a minimum at a significantly lower cost. In the period from 2008 to 2018, China delivered 163 middle-class multipurpose UAVs to 13 countries while the US only exported 15 Reaper. Thus, it can be expected that Chinese attack drones will dominate the international market in the near term.

Wing Loong of the Armed Forces of Kazakhstan during the parade in Astana
Wing Loong of the Armed Forces of Kazakhstan during the parade in Astana

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