Chinese military tests long-range, heavy aerial delivery with unmanned transport aircraft

Global Times
Chen Zhuo
2019-06-23 20:47:02
A Chinese unmanned transport aircraft taxis on a runway in an aerial delivery exercise in Northwest China's Gansu Province. Photo: screenshot from China Central Television

Chinese military analysts predicted on Sunday that more unmanned transport aircraft could join the Chinese military logistics arsenal for long-range and heavy delivery in the future, as the Chinese military recently made breakthroughs in the heavy cargo delivery exercise with an unmanned transport plane.

Jointly held by the National Defense University of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, an aerial delivery exercise took place recently in Zhangye, Northwest China's Gansu Province, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Thursday.

The exercise featured an unmanned single-engine biplane, the designation of which was not revealed, as it carried a cargo of military supplies and successfully airdropped it into a target zone, according to the CCTV report.

This is the first time China has conducted a parachuted aerial delivery of cargo weighing more than 500 kilograms on a flight distance of more than 500 kilometers with an unmanned transport aircraft, CCTV quoted Li Ruixing, the president of the PLA National Defense University's joint logistics academy, as saying.

"We … explored a new model of military cargo delivery in joint combat as well as in strategic and tactical logistics support," Li said.

Since transport planes usually do not need to make intense and complicated maneuvers like fighter jets, even heavier cargo delivery missions could become unmanned if this technology becomes mature, a military expert who asked not to be named told the Global Times on Sunday.

Airdrops often take place within the range of hostile anti-aircraft fire, so being unmanned lowers risk to life, the expert said.

The exercise also means that the Chinese military now has the first large unmanned equipment in its logistics arsenal, the CCTV report said, noting that the mission was carried out on a plateau with a complicated terrain.

"The exercise met our expected objective. It is very significant for our unmanned logistics chain in future warfare," said Bi Guangyuan, executive director of the exercise, CCTV reported.

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