China has begun commercial production of its CH-5 Rainbow drone, signalling its readiness to peddle the heavy military drone in the international market for half the price of its supposed rival – the US’ unmanned aerial vehicle MQ-9 Reaper.
The first flight of a mass-produced CH-5 Rainbow on Friday last week indicated that China was preparing to export it, said Wang Song, an associate professor with the school of aeronautic science and engineering at China’s Beihang University.
He claimed that the drone is on par with the US General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, which could attack targets on the ground, but at around half the cost. But, at $16.9 million, the world’s most expensive US drone still has an edge, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post cited Wang as saying. The Reaper can rise up to a height of between 12,000 and 15,000 metres, allowing the US drone to stay above the reach of most ground fire. The CH – 5 built with a relatively weaker engine, on the other hand, cannot operate at more than 9,000 m, which makes it susceptible to attack by some anti-aircraft weaponry. Wang noted that China still lagged behind the West in aircraft engine technology.
The CH-5 can conduct reconnaissance, surveillance, patrol, target positioning and strike missions, said Shi Wen, chief engineer of the Rainbow drone project at the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics.
“We’ve made several modifications after its debut, and its comprehensive functions are among the world’s best,” Shi Wen claimed.
The CH-5 has a wingspan of 21 m and is capable of carrying up to 1,000 kg of equipment. It can stay in the air for 60 hours with a range of more than 10,000 km, Shi said. The CH-5 can also be used for civilian purposes such as resource surveying, marine environmental protection, disaster survey, marine law enforcement and emergency responses, Shi said.