China is showing off the latest addition to its range of stealth drones this week as the nation’s top aerospace manufacturers continue to break new ground in the field.
While the CH-7, or Rainbow-7, unmanned aerial vehicle is not yet ready to fly, a full-size model of it is currently on display at the 12th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, also known as Airshow China 2018, which runs until Sunday in the southern city of Zhuhai.
The CH family of drones is developed by the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics, a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, and is one of the country’s bestsellers on the international market.
The CH-7 is a high-altitude, high-speed, long-endurance stealth drone capable of carrying out a range of missions, from reconnaissance and early warning to air defence suppression, ground attack and air combat.
It has a wingspan of 22 metres (72 feet), a length of 10 metres and maximum take-off weight of 13 tonnes. It can fly at altitudes of up to 13,000 metres and has a top speed of 919km/h (571mph).
As it is low-visibility to radar systems, the drone can also penetrate enemy defences and act as a guide for follow up strikes at high-value targets, its developer said.
The CH-7’s wing shape gives it a similar appearance to the United States’ B-2 “Spirit” stealth bomber and X47B stealth drone.
The design is a combination of advanced aerodynamics, stealth and flight control technologies, the developer said. The CH-7 is expected to make its maiden flight next year and enter mass production in 2022.
Wang Yongzhi, an aerospace expert familiar with the project, said the capabilities of the CH-7 would be similar to those of the X47B, which was a carrier-based long range stealth combat drone developed for the US navy but later cancelled.
“Currently, the CH-7 is a land-based drone but has the potential to be modified so it can be used on board carriers,” he said.