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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)

WZ - Wuren Zhencha (UAV)
Anjian UCAV [Shenyang]
CH-5 Chang Hong-5
CH-6 Chang Hong-6
CH-901 Chang Hong-901
Dark Sword
FH-97 Feihong-97
Feng Ying (Wind Shadow)
GJ-11 Sharp Sword
TA001 Striking Hawk [Tengoen]
TB001 Scorpion [Tengoen]
Tian-Yi / Sky Wing
Tian-Yi 3 / Sky Wing III
UCAV-N [Shenyang]
Wing Loong
Wing Loong II
Wing Loong 10

CH-10 Chang Hong-10
WZ-6 / K/JWR6?
WZ - Wuren Zhencha (UAV)
ASN-209 Silver Eagle
AVIC 601-S
BZK-008 CH-91
BZK-009 WZ-9 / WZ-2000
CH-1 Cai Hong-1
CH-2 Cai Hong-2
CH-3 Cai Hong-3
CH-4 Cai Hong-4
CH-5 Cai Hong-5
CH-91D BZK-008 / R-8 / WZ-8
CH-1 Chang Hong-1 WZ-5
CH-7 Chang Hong-7
CK-1 Chang Kong-1
Cloud Shadow
CY-01 Hua Ying
Divine Eagle
Flying Dragon
Hua Ying
Sky Hawk WJ-600A/D
TD-THX [Tengoen]
Tian-Yi 1 / Sky Wing I
WJ-100 Blade
WJ-600 A/D
WZ-8 BZK-008 / CH-91
WZ-9 BZK-009
WZ-2000 [Guizhou]
Xianglong [Chengdu]
BA - (Drone)
Ba-7 (ASN-7)
Ba-9 (ASN-9)

All lists are lies. This list is an attempted compilation of militarily significant Chinese UAV programs. It includes military production programs. It excludes small consumer UAVs, as well as some one-off university prototypes, and similar such projects.

The pilotless aircraft is an aircraft in which there is no pilot and it is flown either by its own onboard programable flight control system or by a remote control system operated by a pilot in a carrier aircraft or on ground. Its controlled long distance flight was realized by use of its onboard autopilot, programable flight control system, remote control and telemetering system, automatic navigation system, automatic landing system, etc. Compared with the manned aircraft it is lighter in weight, smaller in size, lower in production cost and better in stealthiness. It is particularly suitable for high risk missions.

Chinese armed drones have made a significant effect on the battlefields across the Middle East and North Africa. They have been used to assassinate Houthi rebel leaders in Yemen, kill ISIL-affiliated fighters in the Sinai, and for a time help Khalifa Haftar dominate the battlespace in Libya. While the US has traditionally refused to sell its latest advanced weapons systems, China is not bound by such constraints and has had no problem exporting its drones right across the Middle East and Africa. Factories under licence to build Chinese armed drones have been set up in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Myanmar. Exports of Chinese drones are so extensive the sales have made China the second-largest arms exporter in the world.

Shanghai rejected traditional fireworks displays to celebrate the 2020 New Year, filling the skies with thousands of synchronized drones. Nearly 2,000 drones flew over the largest city in China, creating giant spheres, texts and even the figure of a man who seemed to run across the horizon. The traditional midnight countdown was also done by the swarm of drones over the Huangpu River in the east of the city. CCTV said the corridor configuration illustrated “the great changes and glorious achievements that Shanghai has achieved in the last 40 years of reform and openness.” It was achieved through vast programming efforts to coordinate the drones, rather than individual drone pilots.

China is said by Chinese sources to be the largest exporter of military drones. The best-known Chinese military drones are the Wing Loong family, made by Aviation Industry Corp of China, and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp's CH series. CH drones have been sold to military users in more than 10 countries, while the Wing Loong II, which made its maiden flight in late February, has received the largest contract ever for a Chinese drone made for export.

Two main types of combat drone have been put up for export, both having achieved significant operational success. The first is the Cai Hong "Rainbow" series, made by the Chinese Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the most popular version being the CH-4 which has been sold to Egypt, Iraq and Jordan. Earlier versions have seen action in Nigeria as the government battles Boko Haram in the north of the country.

The other main contender is the Wing Loong series of combat drones. Made by the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG), they for a time dominated the battlefields of Libya as they have successfully operated out of airbases in the east of the country, giving Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) a significant advantage over the embattled Government of National Accord (GNA).

Both types of drones have several desirable features in common. They have significant range, far greater than other combat drones such as Turkey's Bayraktar TB2, giving them an enhanced strike capability. They can operate from high up making them more survivable than their competitors and they can carry more bombs and missiles meaning they can pack a heavy punch should they need to. Last but not least they are significantly cheaper. A CH-4 Chinese combat drone at $4m is a quarter of the price of a US-made Reaper MQ-9, which goes for $16m.

UAVs @ Malan AB November 2019

UAVs @ Malan AB November 2019

From left to right: Xianglong attack 2 bzk005 attack 1. A series of small unidentified small droness (still in yellow paint) Wind shadow attack 11 No detection 8 The second bzk005 (possibly with e or l (Improved version). Two unclear vehicle-mounted unmanned helicopters Eagle (of the Third Academy of Science and Technology). Small, miniature, swarm (may also have cruise missiles). The penultimate one is probably the far right of the rainbow Tengdun double-tailed scorpion. Even drones sent by private companies to express delivery are here, and Rainbow, Fengying and Tianying are not the models in service. Divine Eagle is massive, not only in terms of overall dimensions as well. Its "twin hull" configuration probably gives it quite an MTOW.

The Malan base is the 178 UAV brigade station of the PLA Air Force, and the presence of a UAV at this base may indicate that it has joined the Chinese Air Force. In recent years, Malan Airport has been found to conduct test flights of China's new type of drones, and has become a major base for China's drone test flights. However, the emergence of a new type of drone at this airport does not serve as a basis for the aircraft's joining the Chinese Air Force. In fact, many models not purchased by the Chinese Air Force have also been tested at the Malan base.

The most popular Chinese military drones on the international market are the CH family, made by the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics, and Aviation Industry Corp of China's Wing Loong-series. CH drones have been sold to militaries in more than 10 countries, and the Wing Loong II, which made its maiden flight in March 2017, captured the largest contract ever signed for a Chinese export drone.

The pilotless aircraft have developed rapidly since a radio controlled model airplane was used as a drone abroad in the 1930s. The small low altitude and low speed piston-engined drones became operational in the 1940s and the high subsonic and supersonic high performance drones appeared in the 1950s. With the development of microelectronics, navigation and control technologies some countries developed pilotless reconnaissance aircraft after the 1960s. Now the applications of the pilotless aircraft are increasingly expanded. In military area the pilotless aircraft are used in missions of reconnaissance, communication, anti-submarine, electronic counter-measures and ground attack and in civil area they are used in geophysical survey, natural resource exploration, meteorological observation, forest fire-fighting and artificial rainfall; and in R& D area they are used in air sampling proof and advanced technology demonstration.

The investigation of the pilotless aircraft in China began in the late 1950s. The laws of the automatic takeoff and landing for both the An-2 and 11-28 aircraft were basically mastered in 1959. UAVs were first used by the US in China during the 1960s. In fact, one of the first Chinese UAVs was partially developed by reverse engineering one of Firebee unmanned aerial vehicles that was lost over China. China also acquired Russian Lavochkin target drones.

The development of the pilotless aircraft began in second half of the 1960s and by the 1980s had grown into 3 series of products, i.e. the Changkong 1 drones, WZ-5 high altitude photographic reconnaissance aircraft and small remotely controlled aircraft D4s. The pilotless aircraft design and research organizations were founded in NAI, BIAA and NPU. These universities have been used as the bases and have the capabilities of design and small scale production. The various types of the pilotless aircraft made in China have basically satisfied the needs of military and civilian applications and have gradually entered into the world market. While UAV programs in China originally were based on US and Russian designs, today Chinese researchers are producing original research and their own designs for mini, micro, vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL), and flapping-wing UAVs.

With the success of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology in recent global conflicts, China is looking to position itself as a major consumer and exporter of UAVs. Hence, the previously dormant Chinese market for UAV is poised for significant growth. With UAV technologies expected to re-shape national defense strategies and policies, Chinese authorities have now implemented numerous steps to put developments back on track, while introducing indigenous UAV development programs.

Moreover, numerous countries in the Asia Pacific region are progressively modernizing their defense capabilities. Hence, authorities are now convinced that existing and new UAV programs have to be implemented at a quicker rate if China wishes to expand its influence in the Asia Pacific and global defense markets. Following its accomplishments in designing and manufacturing UAVs, China is now looking to enter the electronic warfare (EW) market.

Although China's military probably prefers to purchase a proven system, China's leadership may have determined that indigenous production of UAVs is in China's best interest. While China's military has a great interest in using UAVs in tactical C4I, it had only limited capability and experience with UAVs. Consequently, the practical application of UAV sensor information to battlefield operations was only in the developmental stage. The application of UAVs in tactical C4I operations was likely to increase as new UAVs become operational within the Chinese military.

China's airborne ISR program has placed significant emphasis on UAVs. China's armed forces have operated the Chang Hong (CH-1) long-range, air- launched autonomous reconnaissance drone since the 1980s. China developed the CH-1 by reverse-engineering US Firebee reconnaissance drones recovered during the Vietnam War. An upgraded version of the system was displayed at the 2000 Zhuhai air show and is being offered for export. A PRC aviation periodical reported that the CH-1 can carry a TV, daylight still, or infrared camera. It most likely is not equipped with a data link, which would allow remote-controlled operation, nor is it capable of providing real-time payload feedback to the remote operator.

China's armed forces also operate other UAVs, primarily for battlefield reconnaissance or electronic warfare. Beijing has ongoing efforts in UAV research. Interest in UAVs, mainly reconnaissance versions for use with the ground forces, underscores the PLA's requirements to increase reconnaissance and air defense capabilities.

A concept model of China's unmanned aerial combat vehicle named "Anjian" (Dark Sword) was displayed at the 47th International Paris Air Show, held from June 18th to June 24th of 2007. The aerial combat vehicle was designed by the Shenyang Aeroplane Design Institution under China Aviation Industry Corporation I (CAIC1), for future aerial combat.

The Tian Yi began testing in 2009, as Chengdu's step toward a future Global Hawk class HALE UAV. A new Chinese UAV design — with a 60,000-ft. cruising altitude, 300-mi. radar surveillance range and low radar reflectivity (if it uses the right composite structure) — could serve as the targeting node for China’s anti-ship ballistic missiles.

Richard Fisher notes [Testimony for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission Hearing on China's Emergent Military Aerospace and Commercial Aviation Capabilities, May 20th, 2010] "At the 2000 Zhuhai show the Guizhou WZ-2000 was revealed, a squat twin-jet powered delta winged high-altitude long-endurance UAV, which by the 2002 Zhuhai show evolved into a medium sized UAV, which by the 2008 Zhuhai show appeard to form the basis for an armed turbofan powered unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) similar in size to the U.S. General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper.

"Since the 2006 Zhuhai show there appears to emerged a rough division of labor, in which Chengdu and Guizhou concentrate on medium and long range surveillance UAVs and medium range UCAVs, while Shenyang appears to be concentrating on future long range subsonic and supersonic UCAVs. The 2006 Zhuhai show saw the revelation, in model form, of Chengdu's Tian Yi, which was revealed by internet sources in 2008 to have entered testing. While likely useful as a medium range UAV, the Tian Yi also serves to aid the development of Chengdu's Long Haul Eagle, which is close in size and configuration to the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk. In 2006 Guizhou revealed in model form its box-wing Soar Dragon UAV, credited with a 7,000km range, but there has been no subsequent information on this system.

"At the 2006 Zhuhai airshow Shenyang created a stir by introducing in model form its Dark Sword supersonic UCAV, about which Shenyang has revealed very little. In 2006 it was described in a small plaque as a "fighter," which would have been an amazing accomplishment for a UCAV, though this mission was not mentioned in its plaque at the 2008 Zhuhai show. There has been some suggestion that this design may have been inspired by South African technical assistance. A new model of the Dark Sword was revealed as part of the 2009 PLAAF Anniversary, an indication that it remains an ongoing program. At the 2008 Zhuhai show the forward-swept wing subsonic Warrior Eagle was revealed, also likely a Shenyang program. This concept appears to be a more realistic goal technologically, if one considers it is well suited for attack and surveillance missions. Wall illustrations at the 2008 Zhuhai show suggested the Warrior Eagle would also be capable of cooperative "swarm" missions. There are also indications that the X'ian Aircraft Co. may be developing a strike UCAV. "

The United States has plenty of lethal drones, but it has had restrictions on exporting them out of concern that the technology could be copied or used against its own troops. Some of those restrictions were lifted in April 2018 for US allies, with the Trump administration citing competition from Chinese “knockoffs”, but even a solid ally such as Jordan had not been able to buy US drones. The US rules gave Beijing the opportunity to fill the void and sell its drones to other countries, but China’s “competitive” prices also helped.

China’s drones are now flying in the Middle East, as Beijing has fewer qualms than the United States when it comes to selling its military UAVs to other nations. The Iraqi army has used CASC’s CH-4 drone to conduct at least 260 strikes against the Islamic State group, Chinese media reported in 2018. In Yemen, where a civil war has sparked what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the United Arab Emirates military has reportedly targeted a Shiite rebel chief with a Chinese-made drone.

The AV500W that appeared in 2017 weighs 450 kg, has a payload of 120 kg, has a maximum speed of 170 kilometers per hour, a maximum flight altitude of 4000 meters, and a battery life of 4 hours (with weapons) and 8 hours (with cameras only) ). The AV500W can carry 4 laser-guided missiles, and the maximum distance it can find and strike a target by using the airborne camera and laser pointer is 8000 meters. China has long discouraged its defense companies from disclosing products that have been developed but not successfully sold. However, this situation seems to be changing now. At the same time, Chinese manufacturers are producing weapons and drones that are very similar to existing Western models. This is another issue that foreign companies are more concerned about.

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Page last modified: 23-10-2021 18:56:47 ZULU