Carrier-based attack drones to enter service with PLA Navy

Li Jiayao
A civilian version of the Caihong drones made by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. Photo: CASC


The Chinese Navy is testing new drones capable of synchronized operations with military aircraft.

The drones – or unmanned aerial vehicles – are tailor-made to ascend and land vertically on destroyers and even aircraft carriers.

Joint operations of manned military aircraft such as fighter jets and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are the way of the future, Shi Wen, chief engineer and designer of China’s Caihong attack drones, told Xinhua.

“We are making efforts to promote artificial intelligence for UAVs to allow manned aircraft to co-pilot UAVs,” Shi revealed.

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, a military-industrial complex, was commissioned by the Chinese military to develop a squadron of attack and reconnaissance drones. They will be used by PLA naval units tasked with responding to emergencies in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea.

The Global Times has suggested that the first batch of shipborne drones will roll off the production line soon, once China’s first domestically made carrier nears its maiden sea trial.

“Although the military has not released any information, research into carrier-based UAVs started long ago, and ship-based UAVs have already been used in training on destroyers and frigates,” the paper quoted a naval expert as saying.

A new “stealth” drone, codenamed Caihong-X, believed to be the epitome of Chinese drone technology, will be displayed at Airshow China 2018 in November in the southern city of Zhuhai.

Observers believe Caihong-X could be compatible with electromagnetic catapults said to have been mounted on the homemade carrier.

The virtues of carrier-borne drones are obvious: extended payload, airborne time, operational radius, plus extra maneuverability, as it should have significant acceleration speed when it’s catapulted from a carrier, far beyond that of a normal plane.

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