UAV/UCAV

In recent years, many types of UAVs have been developed in China by various universities, research institutes and manufactures. However most of them failed to enter series production or the service due to their poor performance and relatively primitive technology utilized. As a result, only a handful modern UAVs with sufficient technological sophistication are lucky enough to enter the service with the military. It was reported (January 2012) that the first sub-orbital flight of a new unmanned spacecraft (Divine Dragon) took place successfully in 2011. The spacecraft is thought to be similar to American X-35B in configuration but smaller. It has been developed by the 611 Institute.


Harpy

The first picture of a Harpy UCAV launch vehicle carrying 18 box launchers in service with PLA Army is shown here. Acquired secretly from Israel in 1994, this highly classified UCAV/missile was unknown to the West until 2004. Developed by IAI in the early 90s, Harpy is the first UAV which features a passive radar seeker and can be used as a long-range anti-radiation weapon to attack enemy radar stations. Its range is 500km, max speed 185km/hr, warhead 32kg. In 2004 Chinese were trying have them upgraded by Israelis but the attempt was discovered and subsequently blocked by the US government. All UCAVs were returned to China without any upgrades. The latest images from CCTV (April 2011) suggested that Chinese have developed their own version of Harpy by reverse-engineering. Two new types of seeker with slightly different sizes have been identified, suggesting different homing frequencies. However the launch vehicle now carries only 6 launchers.
- Last Updated 2/20/13

BZK-005 Giant Eagle

A rare view of BZK-005 UAV in service with PLA Department of Chief Staff is shown here. BZK-005 was developed by BUAA and Harbin Aviation Industrial Group (HAIG) in early 2000s as a medium/high altitude long range reconnaissance UAV for strategic missions. Its prototype was unveiled briefly in an AVIC promotional video at the 2006 Zhuhai International Airshow. The UAV features a stealth optimized fuselage, a three propeller pusher engine, and twin tail booms with V-shaped tailfins. A SATCOM antenna is thought to be installed inside the head bulge, which provides live data transmission over thousands of kilometers. A small turret is installed underneath the nose housing the FLIR/CCD cameras. Those can be used for photo reconnaissance if needed. The UAV also features a large wingspan and a fuel efficient turboprop (?) engine, and is constructed using a large amount of composite materials. These help to increase its range and cruising altitude, while reduce its RCS. Its specifications are: cruising speed 150-180km/hr, service ceiling 8,000m, endurance 40hr, max TO weight <1,250kg, max payload >150kg, TO distance <600m, landing distance <500m. Currently BZK-005 is in service with PLAN as well (dubbed Sea Eagle?).
- Last Updated 6/27/13

BZK-006/WZ-6

A PLA Army BZK-006 (WZ-6 or K/JWR6?) tactical reconnaissance UAV was on display during the 60th National Day military parade on October 1, 2009 onboard its launch vehicle. This light-weight medium-range UAV has been evolved from the earlier ASN-206/207 platform (T-18) developed in mid-90s by Northwest Polytechnic University (NTU). BZK-006 carries a small turret underneath the nose housing the FLIR/CCD cameras for day and night missions. It can also carry a small ground surveillance radar as well. A mushroom shaped communication antenna is installed on top of the head section which provides the real-time datalink between the UAV and the ground command & control station. Each station can control two UAVs at a same time. Some specifications: length 4.3m, height 1.5m, endurance 12hr. BZK-006 is powered by a 4-cylinder piston engine. It uses rocket assisted take off (RATO) and parachute landing.
- Last Updated 7/11/11


BZK-007 Sunshine

BZK-007 medium altitude/long endurance UAV was co-developed by GAIC and BUAA in the early 2000s and was unveiled briefly at the 2006 Zhihai Airshow. It first flew on August 8, 2005 as a civilan remote sensoring system. Recent images indicate that BZK-007 UAV has also been in service with PLA Army and Navy as a tactical reconnaissance UAV (dubbed BZK-007). It can carry a variety of equipment including daylight/IR TV cameras, high definition CCD camera, as well as remote sensors of different spectral bands or even SAR. Most EO sensors are located inside a turret underneath the fuselage right behind the wing section. A SATCOM antenna inside a large dorsal bulge provides real-time transmission of data and commands between the UAV and the ground control station. BZK-007 UAV is powered by a piston engine with a 3-blade propeller and is able to take off/land autonomously with retractable or non-retractable landing gears. Some specifications: max TO weight 750kg, mission payload >70kg, length 7.7m, height 2.74m, wingspan 14.6m, max level speed 240km/hr.
- Last Updated 12/7/13


BZK-009/WZ-9

A WZ-2000 model was on display at the 2004 Zhuahi Airshow. Also known as WZ-9 (K/JWR9?), this reconnaissance stealth UAV has been under development at GAIC since 1999. Its stealth design features a fuselage with a flat bottom surface blended seamlessly with long swept wings to reduce RCS (<1m2 head-on). A single turbofan engine (WS-11) sits on top of the tail section with its intake shielded by the wing section and its exhaust nozzle shielded by twin "V" shaped tailfins to reduce both radar and IR signatures. WZ-9 carries a large satellite communication antenna inside its head bulge for real-time transmission of images and ELINT data back to the ground control station. It also carries FLIR and CCD cameras inside a turret underneath its nose for navigation and photo reconnaissance. A synthetic aperture radar (SAR) could be installed underneath its fuselage as well. WZ-9 looks generally similar to American Global Hawk long-range stealth UAV but has a smaller size and a shorter range. Some specifications: length 7.5m, wingspan 9.8m, max TO weight 1.7t, mission payload 80kg, max level speed 800km/h, ceiling 18,000m, combat radius 800km, endurance 3hr. WZ-9 first flew on December 26, 2003. Its improved version (BZK-009) first flew in 2006. The UAV entered limited service with PLA Department of Chief Staff in 2007 and conducts only strategic reconnaissance missions. Besides GAIC, CAC is also developing a similar but smaller stealth UAV. A prototype was built by April 2008. High speed taxiing took place in September 2008. The UAV has been called Sky Wing
- Last Updated 2/1/13

B-6

Around 200 retired J-6/Mig-19 fighters are thought to have been converted to UAVs as B-6 (J-6W?) drones. The aircraft had the wing-root 30mm guns, ejection seat and other life support systems removed. New remote flight control, navigational (GPS?) and fire control systems including datalink were installed. They are believed to have been stationed in Southeast China facing Taiwan (S/N 794xx). Some B-6s are seen carrying two 250kg bombs under the wings, suggesting their role as low-cost ground attack UCAVs, or as cruise missiles or decoys to probe, disrupt even suppress enemy air defence systems. Therefore the guidance system might include passive radar homing for anti-radiation missions. It was rumored that a further upgraded variant has been developed with the cockpit completely removed. Depending on the cost, B-6 could be modified to fly additional missions including ELINT, ECM and laying naval mines.
- Last Updated 12/4/13


Sharp Sword

The 001 prototype of Sharp Sword UCAV is shown here taxiing at the Hongdu airfield. It was reported that 601 and Hongdu have been working on a long-range stealth UCAV similar to American X-47B and French Neuron. A scale model was publicized in September 2011 revealing an X-47B style tailless flying wing and a triangular dorsal air intake configuration, in an effort to minimize RCS and reduce IR emission. The UCAV also features a SATCOM datalink antenna located aft the dorsal air intake. As a UCAV, Sharp Sword is expected to carry at least two GPS/Beidou guided bombs or LGBs separately inside two internal bomb bay. Its wings appears foldable, suggesting it could be deployed on an aircraft carrier, like X-47B. Its length is around 10m and wingspan is around 14m. The first prototype was built by the end of 2012. First high speed taxiing took place on January 26, 2013, powered likely by an RD-93 turbofan engine with A/B, even though the UCAV is unlikely to fly supersonic. However the engine nozzle appears to be unshielded, due to the extra length of the afterburner, since RD-93 is the only mid-thrust turbofan engine currently available. This problem should be resolved when a shorter engine without A/B (modified RD-33 or WS-13) is installed in the future. The latest image indicated that the Sharp Sword prototype took off for the first time on November 21, 2013 from the GAIC UAV Test Base. Currently (May 2014) the 0003 prototype is reportedly being built. Besides Sharp Sword, another UAV flying wing design (WZ-X?/CH-X?) was developed by NTU. This high-altitude/long endurance UAV, which resembles American RQ-180, was thought to have first flown in 2012. At least two prototypes were built.
- Last updated 5/7/14