Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Beijing, China (4E) – China, a Johnny-come-lately in the armed aerial drone market, claims its newest aerial drone is far superior to the U.S. military’s General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, which is generally considered the best combat drone in the world.
China made this assertion following the recent maiden flight of the commercial model of its Caihong CH-5 unmanned aerial vehicle it plans to sell in world markets at a price half that of the MQ-9.
CH-5 designer Shi Weng boasted that the combat capabilities of the CH-5 leave the MQ-9 “in the dust.” Shi said among these features are the Chinese UAV’s ability to fly missions lasting up to 60 hours; its range of 6,500 km and its capability to carry 16 air-to-surface missiles.
Back in November 2016 when China first revealed the CH-5, Shi noted the CH-5 “can perform whatever operations the MQ-9 Reaper can, and is even better than the U.S. vehicle when it comes to flight duration and operational efficiency.”
More important to international buyers is the cheap price of the CH-5. Some Chinese experts claim the drone will be sold for less than half the price of the $17 million MQ-9.
Equally important is China’s no questions asked policy. China will sell the drone to anyone with the cash to buy it unlike the US which won’t sell its drones to countries with records of violating human rights.
The UAVs was designed by the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics in Beijing. The China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (part of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation) is China’s largest military drone exporter in number of products sold overseas. Its CH-series drones have been sold to military users in over 10 countries.
The CH-5 made its first flight in August 2015, becoming the best military drone in China in terms of operational endurance and payload.
The drone is made of composite materials and has a wingspan of 21 meters. Twice as big as its predecessors in the CH family, the drone can stay aloft for 60 hours and operate at an altitude of up to 10 km.
The major drawback of the CH-5 is its poor ceiling. The Chinese drone can only reach a maximum altitude of 8,800 meters, making it more vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles. In contrast, the MQ-9 can fly to over 15,000 meters.
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