UAV/UCAV II

  • Recent news indicated the Divine Dragon OTV (Project 921-706?) similar to American X-37B was launched vertically into the orbit using a CZ-2F rocket on September 4, 2020 and landed horizontally on September 6, 2020. The OTV was launched successfully into the space again on August 4, 2022 and returned to earth on May 8, 2023.
  • Recent images (June 2020) suggested that a shipborne VTUAV (AR-2000?) similar to American MQ-8B is being developed for PLAN by the 602 Institute. It features an EO turret and a surface search radar under the nose. Its slim fuselage appears to have been optimized for stealth. Its engine might be a single WZ-8D turboshaft. It also features a pair of stub wings carrying up to 6 ASMs. The VTUAV is expected to be stationed onboard the new Type 075 LHD and Type 055 DDG. The latest video (August 2023) indicated that at least one VTUAV has been stationed onboard the Hainan LHD, wearing a dark blue color scheme.
  • A recent image taken by JASDF (August 2021) suggested that the large TB-001A Twin-tail Scorpion twin-engine long-range reconnaissance UAV has been in service with PLARF. It appears to carry an EO turret and an SAR pod underneath its belly. TB-001A is also capable of carrying a variety of air-to-surface munitions and drones.
 GJ-1/WL-1 Wing Loong

A PLAAF GJ-1 UCAV was taking off. This medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UCAV similar to American MQ-1 Predator has been developed by the 611 Institute/CAC/GAIC since 2005 known as WL-1/Pterosaur-1. First flight took place in October 2007. It features a head bulge which houses a SATCOM antenna, which allows the UCAV to communicate with the ground control station via a satellite, a communication relay UAV, or direct signal transmission. An EO turret (Loong Eye?) housing FLIR/TV/laser range finder/laser designator is mounted under its nose for tracking and locking on ground targets in poor weather conditions. As the result the UCAV can not only direct the missiles launched by itself, but also guide the PGMs launched by other aircraft or by the ground force. It is powered by a 100hp ROTAX 914 piston engine. The UCAV normally carries two KD-10/BA-7 laser guided ATGMs as its primary weapon. It can also carry two YZ-100 series 100kg cluster bombs as well. In 2012 UAE was believed to have become the first foreign customer of WL-1. Saudi Arabia also acquired WL -1 in 2014, armed with BA-7 ATGMs. A few have been shot down over Yemen since 2016. Two were reportedly delivered to Kazakhstan in March 2016. Pakistani AF is also believed to have been operating Wing Loong I since mid-2016. Other countries operating the UCAV include Egypt (10 in 2016, some carrying TL-2 ASMs), Indonesia (4 in early 2018), Uzbekistan (5 between 2013/2014) and Ethiopia (3 in 2021). More Wing Loong Is are being produced for foreign customers as some are lost in combat. An image taken during the SCO Peace Mission 2014 military exercise confirmed that the UCAV called GJ-1/WD-1K has been in service with PLAAF as its first operational UCAV (S/N 76x2x, 78x9x, 53x3x). The latest video (January 2022) suggested that GJ-1 also entered the service with PLA Army. Some specifications: weight 1,100kg, max speed 280km/hr, range 4,000km, endurance 20hr, service ceiling 5,000m, weapon load 200kg. A recent news (November 2018) suggested that Egypt has ordered 32 improved WL-1D which features a more powerful domestic engine (C145), all composite material construction, SAR and 4 underwing pylons. Some specifications: weapon load 400kg, endurance 35hr, service ceiling 7,500m. First flight of WL-1D took place on December 23, 2018. The latest news indicated that the new WL-1E in the same class of American MQ-1C just conducted its maiden flight on January 18, 2022.
- Last Updated 11/22/23

 GJ-2/WL-2 Wing Loong

It was first unveiled in September 2015 that a bigger and more powerful variant called WL-2 was under development at the 611 Institute and GAIC. It is powered by a new turboprop engine (WJ-9A/AEP50E, 500kW) and can carry up to 12 ATGMs. Its MTOW is 4,200kg, max external load is 480kg, max speed is 370km/hr, ceiling is 9,000m, endurance is 20hr. The UCAV also has an SAR radar (HD3000?) installed in its nose for acquiring ground target in poor weather conditions. A small datalink antenna for guiding missiles was also installed underneath the starboard side of the forward fuselage. The UCAV is able to search, track and destroy ground targets as well as take off and land autonomously using advanced AI technology. In December 2017 WL-2 underwent weapon integration tests by launching various GPS/laser/IR guided air-to-air, air-to-surface missiles and bombs. A satellite image taken in October 2017 suggested that UAE acquired the first batch of 15 WL-2 UCAVs which have been involved in the civil war in Libya with BA-7 ATGMs. Som were shot down since August 2019. A recent image (November 2018) indicated that Wing Loong II (without winglets) has entered the service with PLAAF in Yunnan Province facing Myanmar as GJ-2 (WG-2, S/N 53x3x). GJ-2 is expected to carry KD-9 and KD-10 laser guided missiles. At least one ELINT variant was identified in November 2019 with a cluster of antennas installed on a dish underneath the fuselage as well as conformal ELINT antenna strips on both sides of the forward fuselage. Recent satellite images (August 2019) indicated that GJ-2s were deployed in Tibet and Xinjiang Province facing India. The latest video (August 2023) suggested that GJ-2 has been flying coordinated missions together with the J-16 multirole fighter. A recent news (November 2020) indicated that Nigerian AF also ordered 5 WL-2s, armed with TL-2 and AG-300M ASMs. Another recent news (August 2021) suggested that Ethiopia also acquired a few WL-2s. A recent video (June 2023) suggested that Algeria has acquired a few WL-2s. A total of 24 was reportedly ordered in 2021. The latest news (September 2023) claimed that Morocco has acquired a least 3 WL-2s. The latest image (October 2023) indicated that Pakistani AF has acquired WL-2s which can carry up to 12 AG-300M ASMs.
- Last Updated 2/8/24

 WZ-7 Soaring Dragon

Besides Wing Loong, another long-range semi-stealth UAV called WZ-7 (EA-005?) has been developed by 611 Institute and GAIC. This large UAV features a box/diamond wing design to increase lift while reducing drag and weight. WZ-7 reportedly weighs 7,500kg and has a range of 4,500km, a cruising speed of 750km/hr and a cruising altitude of 18,000m. Its length is 14m, height 3.9m, wingspan 22.8m. A technology demonstrator called Soaring Dragon was first built at CAC for ground testing in 2011. Subsequently it underwent substantial redesign based on the issues revealed during the tests. The new redesigned WZ-7 appears to feature several major changes. It has a smaller length and wingspan. It also has twin vertical slanted tailfins extending outwards plus twin ventral stabilizing fins. This gives the UAV a lower profile than its predecessor. It has a head bulge housing a SATCOM antenna, as well as a dorsal air intake. The engine was speculated to be a turbojet which is less ideal due to its high fuel consumption rate. Two small optical windows can be seen underneath the nose housing FLIR and TV camera for the flight control purpose. A camera compartment is located further behind for the photo reconnaissance purpose. Another small round fairing is installed under the rear fuselage probably for ELINT purpose. The UAV is expected to fly long-range recon and EW missions. It was rumored that a WZ-7 prototype was built by mid-2012 and the maiden flight took place in late 2012 at GAIC. Currently WZ-7 is in production at GAIC and has entered the service with PLAAF as a strategic HALE recon UAV. A recent satellite image (October 2019) indicated that at least 9 WZ-7s were deployed in Jilin Province facing North Korea (S/N 21x7x). Another satellite image (December 2020) indicated that at least 5 WZ-7s were deployed in Tibet following the Doklam standoff with India in summer 2017, wearing a blue-gray color scheme. WZ-7 was unveiled for the first time at the 2021 Zhuhai Airshow. Recent news (September & December 2022) suggested that WZ-7 started to fly recon missions over the Taiwan Strait as well as the Philippine Sea near Japan. The latest video (March 2023) suggested that WZ-7 has entered the service with PLAN (dubbed WZ-7H?), wearing a light gray color scheme.
- Last Updated 3/24/23

 WZ-8

It was first reported and rumored in September 2015 that an unmanned supersonic cruising vehicle featuring a turbojet/ramjet combined cycle engine (TBCC) and developed by the 611 Institute was tested for the first time. The vehicle was carried under the belly of an H-6 carrier. After being released, it climbed up into the stratosphere with the help of a solid rocket boosterThen it cruised at an altitude of >30km while at a speed of >Mach 3. After the supersonic flight the vehicle glided back to the base and landed safely. A satellite image taken in June 2018 suggested that a triangular shaped high altitude/high speed UAV was entering the service with PLAAF as a strategic reconnaissance UAV (WZ-8) similar to American D-21. WZ-8 was first unveiled during the military parade celebrating PRC's 70th anniversary on October 1, 2019. However the UAV appears to be powered by twin liquid fuel (hydrazine based) rocket engines (YF-50A?) instead of a turbojet/ramjet engine. It also carries two solid rocket boosters underneath the wings in order to quickly reach its cruising speed and altitude after being released from the carrier. It might also feature a conformal SAR radar in the leading edge of its wing and dorsal SATCOM antennas for real time HD image transmission. Currently WZ-8 is in service together with the PLAAF H-6M bomber unit in Anhui Province facing Taiwan and Japan (S/N 21x1x). Its carrier is believed to be H-6MW (?) where the UAV was attached to the bomber's belly. It was rumored that the UAV already flew secret recon missions near Taiwan as well as the disputed Senkaku Islands in East China Sea. Some specifications (estimated): cruising speed 3,500km, cruising altitude: >30,000m, range: 1,500km. WZ-8 was publicly displayed at the 2021 Zhuhai Airshow.
- Last Updated 5/7/23

 WZ-9 Divine Eagle

This large high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) UAV has been under development at 601 Institute/SAC since the last decade as an "anti-stealth" AEW platform. WZ-9 features a novel twin fuselage design with twin large vertical tailfins and an extra-long main wing extending across the rear fuselage. It also has a small canard wing connecting the head sections of twin fuselages in order to maintain the structural integrity of the UAV. A SATCOM antenna is expected to be installed inside the head bulge on the port side. The UAV is thought to be powered by a medium-thrust turbofan engine without A/B (WS-12) located above the main wing and between the two vertical tail fins. As an AEW platform WZ-9 is expected to have two side-looking conformal radar antenna arrays installed along the twin fuselages. The ultra wide dual-band electronically scanned radar is capable of detecting stealth aircraft at a relatively long range but might suffer from a lower accuracy. Therefore several WZ-9 may fly ahead in a group formation while being controlled via datalink by the AWACS flying behind in a safe distance or by the ground station protected by the air defense unit. Together they act as an airborne multistatic radar system and are able to pick up the radar reflection signals of the same stealth aircraft from multiple directions. As the result the UAV can extend both the detecting range and accuracy of the AWACS against stealth aircraft. The design of WZ-9 appear to share some similarity with the Russian Sukhoi S-62 concept which first appeared around 2000. It was rumored that Russian assistance was sought during the initial development stage. A technology demonstrator was built by the spring 2015. Low speed taxi tests took place in May 2015. It was rumored that the UAV made its first flight in October 2015. Some specifications (estimated): height 6m, length 14m, wingspan 35m, endurance >20hr, ceiling 18km. If successfully entering the service, WZ-9 would become the first airborne anti-stealth radar system in the world and could be used to counter American F-22s, F-35s and B-2s. The first WZ-9 prototype was transferred to GAIC for further testing in summer 2016. A satellite image (December 2017) suggested that the 2nd prototype was built at GAIC. A recent satellite image (January 2021) indicated that one WZ-9 prototype was being evaluated by PLAAF, along with WZ-7 and WZ-10. The latest satellite image (October 2023) indicated that more WZ-9s are being manufactured at GAIC, wearing a PLAAF dark gray color scheme.
- Last Updated 10/24/23

 GJ-11/GJ-11J Sharp Sword

It was first reported that 601 and Hongdu were working on a long-range stealth UCAV similar to American X-47B. 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. The UCAV is expected to carry at least two 500kg GPS/Beidou guided bombs or LGBs separately inside two internal bomb bays. 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, combat radius >1,000km. The first Sharp Sword stealth UCAV technology demonstrator prototype was built by the end of 2012. First high speed taxiing took place on January 26, 2013, probably powered by an indigenous WS-12 turbofan without A/B. However the engine nozzle appears to be unshielded which might increase its thermal signature. The 001 prototype took off for the first time on November 21, 2013 from the GAIC UAV Test Base. It was rumored in November 2015 that the improved 002 prototype might have flown in 2016. Besides Sharp Sword, another stealth flying wing design (WZ-3000?/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. It was rumored in May 2017 claimed that after 5 years of testing Sharp Sward was ready for production at Hongdu/GAIC and to enter the service with PLAAF as a medium-range ground attack stealth UCAV (GJ-11). Images of an AVIC scale model (December 2017) suggested that GJ-11 has undergone some modifications including a shielded engine exhaust, a chin-mounted IRST, conformal (phased array/EW?) antennas embedded in the leading edges of  flying wing, two optimized internal bomb bays for Beidou guided glide bombs of different weights (100kg & 500kg). The UCAV may be powered by a new engine as well. A "technology demonstrator" model of GJ-11 was unveiled during the military parade celebrating PRC's 70th anniversary in October 2019. Some specifications (estimated): length >12m, wing span >14m, weapon load >2,000kg, MTOW >14t, combat radius >1,500km. It was speculated that ultimately a group of GJ-11controlled by a J-20S airborne command post might fly combat missions similar to the American XQ-58A Loyal Wingman design. A recent rumor (July 2020) suggested that the naval variant GJ-11 (GJ-11J?) would be deployed on the new Type 003 aircraft carrier and Type 076 "UAV carrier". A recent report suggested that the first GJ-11 prototype flew for the first time in 2020. The latest image (November 2023) suggested that the first GJ-11J prototype has been built and started to conduct various (ground?) tests.
- Last updated 2/21/24

 WZ-10/WL-10 Wind Shadow

A satellite image taken in January 2021 suggested that a least two WL-10 Wind Shadow high speed/high altitude UAVs developed by CAC have entered the service with PLAAF, carrying low visibility insignias. Officially designated as WZ-10, the semi-stealth UAV was unveiled at the 2022 Zhuhai Airshow as a dedicated ELINT platform aimed at detecting enemy radars. It features conformal ELINT antennas (multi-baseline interferometers?) on both sides of the forward fuselage to intercept multiple radar signals and locate their individual positions. A SATCOM antenna was installed inside the head bulge. An EO turret can be installed underneath the forward fuselage for photo recon purpose. WZ-10 is powered by twin ZF850 turbojet engines with dorsal air intakes located between the twin tail fins in order to reduce its radar and IR signatures. A recent image (July 2023) indicated that WZ-10s are in service with PLAAF (S/N 21x7x) in Jilin Province, facing North Korea. The latest satellite image (December 2023) indicated that more WZ-10s were deployed in Guangdong Province, facing Taiwan. The latest news (February 2024) suggested that the improved WL-10B UCAV has been ordered by Saudi Arabia.
- Last Updated 2/11/24
 
KVD002 Rainbow

A recent video (September 2021) indicated that the popular CH-4A MALE UCAV (designated as KVD002) developed by CASC has entered the service with PLA Army in Northwest China facing India. Similar to the PLAAF GJ-1, the UCAV features an EO turret and can carry two AR-1 lightweight ASMs for ground attack and an SAR pod for recon purpose (S/N 200x). It can also fly coordinated missions via datalink with attack helicopters to provide additional fire power against various ground targets including air defense systems. Some Specifications: length 8.5m, wing Span 18m, max TO weight 1,300 kg, payload 345 kg, endurance 40h, powerplant 1x100hp piston engine, maximum speed 435km/h, cruise speed 330km/h. The introduction of KVD002 into the Army service suggests that the Army has chosen KVD002 over GJ-1. A recent video (January 2023) suggested that the KVD002 ELINT variant has been deployed in Southeast China facing Taiwan and Japan, with conformal antennas mounted on the leading edges of the wings. It was rumored in December 2020 that a small number of CH-5 UCAVs are also in service with PLAAF but this has yet to be confirmed.
- Last updated 9/14/23