Chinese UAV & UCAV development


Temstar

Junior Member
Registered Member
Hey some of those Harwar Tomahawk payload modules are new. The five tube grenade launcher thing is new (I wonder how it differs from the revolver grenade launcher) and so is that one that looks like four artillery shells as well as the twin circular thing next to it.

Here's Harwar's website with some of the modules available for the Tomahawk, that claw is new too and it looks like something straight out of Gundam
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Deino

Lieutenant General
Staff member
Super Moderator
Registered Member
Wow :oops: ... for the first time a quite clear image of an operational WZ-7 Soaring Dragon II in PLAAF grey with serial numbers - albeit partially psed - was posted.

(Image via @iiiii23 from Weibo via Huitong's CMA-Blog)


WZ-7 Soaring Dragon II in grey + number - 202012145.jpg

WZ-7 Soaring Dragon II in grey + number - 202012145 part XL.JPG
 

schenkus

Junior Member
Registered Member
The conversation in the JF-17 thread about converting big numbers of old fighters to drones made me wonder:
are the reports of a lot of J-6/J-7 fighters having been converted into drones real, or are these just rumours based on some planes being converted to target drones ?

If they are real, would these drones be used like a "cruise missile" to attack a stationary target (while diverting / saturating the opponent's air defence) ?
How much maintenance would such converted drones need to keep operational (compared to a cruise missile) ?
 

Tam

Colonel
Registered Member
The conversation in the JF-17 thread about converting big numbers of old fighters to drones made me wonder:
are the reports of a lot of J-6/J-7 fighters having been converted into drones real, or are these just rumours based on some planes being converted to target drones ?

If they are real, would these drones be used like a "cruise missile" to attack a stationary target (while diverting / saturating the opponent's air defence) ?
How much maintenance would such converted drones need to keep operational (compared to a cruise missile) ?

J-6 and J-7 makes poor drones other than target drones due to their poor loiter, high fuel consumption, and short ranges.
 

plawolf

Brigadier
The conversation in the JF-17 thread about converting big numbers of old fighters to drones made me wonder:
are the reports of a lot of J-6/J-7 fighters having been converted into drones real, or are these just rumours based on some planes being converted to target drones ?

If they are real, would these drones be used like a "cruise missile" to attack a stationary target (while diverting / saturating the opponent's air defence) ?
How much maintenance would such converted drones need to keep operational (compared to a cruise missile) ?

I think China has a similar mothball strategy reserve programme with regards to old, retired fighters to the famous American Bone Yard.

Such a programme is not just about mothballing aircraft, but should also cover remaining spares, tooling, machines and all associated support and training assets such that those mothballed plans could be returned to full frontline combat states if the need ever arise.

But what generally happens is that a small number of crews are trained on their routine maintenance, to keep the knowledge base ‘live’, and they do regular re-activation and servicing at a steady, low pace (a handful of planes per year) as part of their training. Which just so happens to also service the military’s need for advanced target drones.

However, the fact that China has a plethora of dedicated targeting drone types, which are predominantly what we see them use in most live fire exercise videos, would suggest that only a tiny number of retired fighters are being used as target drones, if any are still being used in this way at a all. In fact I do not remember seeing any old fighters being used as target drones for years now.

Because of the unique combination of having the world’s best manufacturing base, rapidly advancing technology, and low threat environment; traditionally China has not bothered to order vast quantities of reserve gear, which has often been a source of frustration for military watchers. The reasoning is simple - why waste your military budget now buying things you know you are very unlikely to ever need to use, when you can rapidly ramp up production to make them when you actually need to have them in the future? Especially when the future versions are almost certainly to be more advanced and capable, yet cost less as a proportion of your military budge due to the expected high year-on-year budget growth?

I just do not see China having invested the time and money to convert all those old fighters into drones; and with the rapid emergence of Chinese UAV technology, there really isn’t much need or justification to start such a programme now. Since China can probably make more and better UCAVs and cruise missiles from scratch.

Yes, the old airframes are bought and paid for already, but the re-activation process is going to be be very slow unless they train a lot of people on the process, and probably have to massive invest in tools and machinery needed for the task.

It’s probably easier to just ramp up UCAV and cruise missile production instead.
 

Temstar

Junior Member
Registered Member
I think China has a similar mothball strategy reserve programme with regards to old, retired fighters to the famous American Bone Yard.

Such a programme is not just about mothballing aircraft, but should also cover remaining spares, tooling, machines and all associated support and training assets such that those mothballed plans could be returned to full frontline combat states if the need ever arise.

But what generally happens is that a small number of crews are trained on their routine maintenance, to keep the knowledge base ‘live’, and they do regular re-activation and servicing at a steady, low pace (a handful of planes per year) as part of their training. Which just so happens to also service the military need for advanced target drones.

However, the fact that China has a plethora of dedicated targeting drone types, which are predominantly what we see them use in most live fire exercise videos, would suggest that only a tiny number of retired fighters are being used as target drones, if any are still being used in this way at a all. In fact I do not remember seeing any old fighters being used as target drones for years now.

Because of the unique combination of having the world’s best manufacturing base, rapidly advancing technology, and low threat environment; traditionally China has not bothered to order vast quantities of reserve gear, which has often been a source of frustration for military watchers. The reasoning is simple - why waste your military budget now buying things you know you are very unlikely to ever need to use, when you can rapidly ramp up production to make them when you actually need to have them in the future? Especially when the future versions are almost certainly to be more advanced and capable, yet cost less as a proportion of your military budge due to the expected high year-on-year budget growth?

I just do not see China having invested the time and money to convert all those old fighters into drones; and with the rapid emergence of Chinese UAV technology, there really isn’t much need or justification to start such a programme now. Since China can probably make more and better UCAVs and cruise missiles from scratch.

Yes, the old airframes are bought and paid for already, but the re-activation process is going to be be very slow unless they train a lot of people on the process, and probably have to massive invest in tools and machinery needed for the task.

It’s probably easier to just ramp up UCAV and cruise missile production instead.
On top of this, the usual way that people envision the use of J-6 UAV in the event of liberation of Taiwan - that of several thousand J-6 UAV blocking out the sun like a swarm of locust and flying towards Taiwan in massed kamikazi attack wave isn't very practical by the fact that such UAVs still have to be armed, fuelled and take off from airfields like regular fighters. Seems unlikely that PLAAF have such capacity in airfields within J-6 range. If you really want that sort of attack you need dedicated loitering munition UAVs that are launched from launchers like IAI Harop.

That is not to say there isn't a J-6 UAV program, just their intended tactics isn't as simple as "first wave SAM sponge".
 

Tam

Colonel
Registered Member
On top of this, the usual way that people envision the use of J-6 UAV in the event of liberation of Taiwan - that of several thousand J-6 UAV blocking out the sun like a swarm of locust and flying towards Taiwan in massed kamikazi attack wave isn't very practical by the fact that such UAVs still have to be armed, fuelled and take off from airfields like regular fighters. Seems unlikely that PLAAF have such capacity in airfields within J-6 range. If you really want that sort of attack you need dedicated loitering munition UAVs that are launched from launchers like IAI Harop.

That is not to say there isn't a J-6 UAV program, just their intended tactics isn't as simple as "first wave SAM sponge".

These people should not think like the Soviets.

So much better to have UAVs with ESM and ARM, flying and loitering over enemy airspace, drawing enemy radars to light them so the UAVs can unleash the ARMs at the radar sites.

The only thing I might recycle from J-7 or J-6 is the engines although I might use new built WP-6 and WP-7 engines for use with jet powered UAVs. Cheap and disposable, using proven tech. J-6's WP-6 turbojet gives you access to a conveniently small UAV sized turbojet that is slim. Use modern technologies to improve its thrust to weight ratio, MTBF and fuel economy.

I also think that the turbojets used with the YJ-83, YJ-18 antiship and DF-10 cruise missiles can also be used as powerplants for future UAVs.
 

reservior dogs

Junior Member
Registered Member
The conversation in the JF-17 thread about converting big numbers of old fighters to drones made me wonder:
are the reports of a lot of J-6/J-7 fighters having been converted into drones real, or are these just rumours based on some planes being converted to target drones ?

If they are real, would these drones be used like a "cruise missile" to attack a stationary target (while diverting / saturating the opponent's air defence) ?
How much maintenance would such converted drones need to keep operational (compared to a cruise missile) ?
The Chinese can act very fast if they think that it makes sense. The fact that it did not happen already means that they thought about it and it does not make any sense. There might be several reason for this.

1. Runway time is one of the most precious things during war time. To launch a large number of these, you would need to hog up a large chunk of the runway time during a war, when you can be launching actual fighters with your runway.

2. These airframes are poor substitutes for missiles, which are cheaper, goes significantly faster without breaking apart. The only advantage of these airframes is dwell time. Dwell time is not going to be very useful if you have low survivability. Actually, a significant cost of the missiles are going to be electronics. With these planes, it is going to cost a lot to retro-fit the electronics and controls. After you did all that, you end up paying half the price for a tenth of the performance. Not a very good trade-off. Like their modern missiles, these airframes are not going to be very survivable and will most likely be used as a suicide drone. For such a use, it is a very poor quality one compared to missiles.

3. Once converted, during peace time, the cost of maintenance is very high for these aircrafts compared to missiles.

I think target drones, or training aircraft for new pilots make sense, however swarming drones? Forget about it.
 

Mt1701d

Junior Member
Registered Member
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CH-4 shot down?
The article, originally associated press is a little confusing... the spokesperson said it was the CH4 but then the supposed evidence provided was a ‘hand-launched drone’ which doesn’t fit the CH4... so not sure if the author of article is mistaken in his description or there is something fishy going on... pinch of salt until more concrete evidence or official statement

He said it was a CH4 UAV produced by state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., or CASC, the largest contractor for the Chinese space program.
Footage aired by the Houthis' Al-Masirah satellite TV channel showed rebel fighters gathered around the hand-launched drone, which appeared to have bullet holes in it.
 

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