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China unveils new drone it says can fly 20+ hours, 435 mph

China's Wing Loong drone (FFA P-16/Wikimedia Commons)
September 29, 2021

China revealed a new high-altitude drone reportedly capable of flying for around 20 hours and reaching top speeds of 435 miles per hour at Airshow China 2021 on Tuesday.

At the event held in Zhuhai, Aerospace CH UAV Co. unveiled the long-endurance CH-6 drone, designed with “future warfare” in mind, according to Global Times, a state-run Chinese news outlet.

The drone features a wingspan of 20.5 meters, has a maximum takeoff weight of 7.8 tons and is capable of carrying a wide range of payloads, including electro-optic systems, synthetic aperture radar, early warning radars, electronic reconnaissance systems, air-to-ground missiles and bombs, anti-radiation missiles and loitering munitions.

It also has two fuel-efficient, small-to-medium-sized turbofan engines, giving it an endurance of 20 hours and allowing it to stay in the air for a “variety of military and civilian missions.”

“With the advantages of high altitudes and speeds, including a service ceiling of 15 kilometers and a top speed of 700 kilometers an hour, the CH-6 can effectively avoid the threats from ground-based air defense fire,” the Global Times wrote. “Even if one engine fails, the other will be enough to bring the drone back to base. This means that the UAV has high survivability, and it can conduct persistent reconnaissance, surveillance, tracking and attack missions, analysts said.”

The company said the drone can also execute anti-submarine missions, maritime patrols, early warning missions and close-range air support.  

Chief engineer and designer of the CH drone series, Shi wen, said one of the biggest advantages of the CH-6 is the ease at which it can be maintained thanks to engines, wings, and payloads that can be easily changed.

“We can call it a flying grenade,” Shi said.

The drone is the latest in China’s efforts in expanding its use of drones in its military.

In July, documents obtained by the South China Morning Post revealed that China has been developing an unmanned submersible vehicle that can track enemy submarines and attack them with torpedoes. China’s underwater drone already successfully attacked a mock submarine target 11 years ago.

The South China Morning Post reported the underwater drone project was partially declassified by a Chinese engineering university involved in its development. A Journal of Harbin Engineering University paper published last Friday detailed a 2010 test in the Taiwan Strait in which the underwater attack drone used its own sensors to independently identify and track the submarine target, before successfully firing an unarmed torpedo at it.