CH-5 UAV officially unveiled at Airshow China

By Chen Boyuan
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, November 3, 2016
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A CH-5 drone is on static display at the Airshow China 2016 in Zhuhai. [Photo by]

The highly anticipated CH-5 (Rainbow-5) unmanned aerial vehicle was officially launched on Tuesday at the 11th China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition (Airshow China 2016), being held in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, between Nov. 1-6, by its developer, China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA).

The existence of the CH-5 has been known by the public since its first flight in September last year. But the official launch of CH-5 nonetheless signaled that it was another step closer to entering the service of the Chinese military as well as the international market.

The CH-5 is the latest UAV of the Rainbow series. Long endurance at middle-high altitude is what its developer keeps boasting. Shi Wen, the chief designer of the rainbow series drones, confirmed at the product launch that the CH-5 can stay airborne for 40-50 hours at a time and has a range of 10,000-20,000 kilometers while carrying normal payloads. When carrying eight AR-1 air-to-ground missiles, the airborne endurance will still be maintained at around 32 hours.

He said that the data already look pretty nice compared with its principal competitor, U.S. MQ-9 Reaper (formerly named Predator-B).

"Hovering above a hostile region for that a long time creates enough deterrence. You can just imagine a drone carrying eight missiles and watching you from above non-stop for 24 hours," said Shi.

He still insisted that a hunter-killer drone does not necessarily have to fly too high or too fast. Instead, an altitude of 3,000-5,000 meters is optimal for drones such as the CH-5 and its predecessors, the CH-3 and CH-4.

"The drone isn't like a fighter jet. It isn't meant for dog fights, but for continuous surveillance and launching strikes whenever necessary. Flying too fast or too high will decrease the chance of success since you should either extend the missile's range or descend to a lower airspace," he said, also explaining why the CH-5 uses a hot-bulb engine.

By contrast, Reaper as well as Chinese Wingloong (winged dragon), a drone designed by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), both use turboprop engines, capable of yielding higher speed and higher service ceiling at the cost of more fuel consumption and slower airborne endurance.

At the product launch ceremony, video footage shows CAAA developers talking about successful combat experiences of the CH-3 and CH-4 in undisclosed African countries, which naturally led to the question of who may be the potential buyers of this latest drone.

Shi said all countries along the "Belt and Road," except the ISIS-haunted Syria, are potential customers for the CH-5. He also clarified that Chinese drones do not have to be "cheaper" than Western products to obtain more orders on the international arms market.

"We may be a little inexpensive, but we do win by our reliability, not our lower price."

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