Chinese UAV & UCAV development


vincent

Senior Member
Staff member
Moderator - World Affairs
If they're containerized drones like Harop or Harpy, sure, it could have some sort of role as augmenting the overall fires of a nation (especially at the early stages of a conflict -- though you're also inviting the enemy start targeting all of your container ships as legitimate military targets).

If you're using an entire empty container ship as a jury rigged miniature "cheap drone carrier" using the container ship's topside as a flight deck, then lol no.
US will blockade China in a war between them anyways, so making containerships legitimate target is not that big a deal.

Containerized suicide drones can be placed on a number of containerships as part of naval task forces attacking American bases in the Ryukyu Islands and Guam. Their effectiveness depends on their number which is needed to overwhelm the American air defenses.
 

Blitzo

Lieutenant General
Staff member
Super Moderator
Registered Member
US will blockade China in a war between them anyways, so making containerships legitimate target is not that big a deal.

Containerized suicide drones can be placed on a number of containerships as part of naval task forces attacking American bases in the Ryukyu Islands and Guam. Their effectiveness depends on their number which is needed to overwhelm the American air defenses.

I have no issues with the pursuit of lower cost suicide drones, but they would have to meet PLA requirements for mobility, preparation to launch time, manpower demands, and sustainment.


I would have agreed with you before this week without a second thought, but mugin 5 managed to evade Russian air defense. An air defense where Ukrainian no longer are willing to deploy tb2 or even mq1c against. I wouldn't exactly call that poorly defended. In fact, I don't see Okinawa better defended than that after an initial success attack on it. You can also get more loitering over an area with a slow moving piston powered uav vs something like harpy.

I am probably over thinking this, but it would be interesting to see what kind of lessons pla draw from drone usage in this conflict.

The fact that Ukraine is "no longer willing to deploy TB-2 or even MQ-1C against" does not mean Russia's air defense is good, it just demonstrates the very well known fact that MALE drones operating in isolation are non-survivable even against less-than-modern air defenses like what Russia has.

A MALE drone like TB-2 or MQ-1C is a much much much easier target to destroy than something like a Mugin 5 sized drone that Ukraine used in its flight profile for this mission. The TB and MQ-1C has a much larger RCS, and more importantly they fly at much higher altitudes than the flight profile that the Mugin 5 wouldl've done for this mission (which makes MALE UAVs able to be detected at much longer distances, whereas a lower flight profile like Mugin 5 on that suicide strike mission means radar horizon comes into play especially for a SAM's ground based radars).

Thus, a TB-2 or MQ-1C is thus not only a much bigger target than a Mugin 5 to detect, track and destroy -- but it can also be much more easily detected and detected at longer range than a Mugin 5 drone because of the altitude that the TB-2 or MQ-1C flies at for their missions.

The bulk of Russia's air defenses are late cold war at best -- hardly modern or capable. But they are still able to swat TB-2 or MQ-1C out of the sky, because MALE drones like those operating in isolation are absolutely unsurvivable even against obsolete air defenses like those.

On the other hand, the Mugin 5 drone has a much smaller RCS, and for this mission would have flown at a low altitude profile, and taking advantage of ground clutter -- it is basically a small prop driven cruise missile. Think about how difficult it is to defend against cruise missiles, and the sort of modern radars, weapons and networking you need to achieve early warning, tracking, and vectoring weapons towards a cruise missile, and one begin to recognizes the magnitudes of difference in difficulty in defending something like Mugin 5 versus taking out something like TB-2 or MQ-1C.



If we want to take a lesson away from the Mugin 5 drone strike, it should be "low flying, small RCS targets require substantial networked and modern capabilities to defend against"... something we've known about for a long time.
 

banjex

Junior Member
Registered Member
The bulk of Russia's air defenses are late cold war at best
Army SHORADS yes, although with a decent amount of post Soviet upgraded Tors and Buks. Strategic air defence (the big, bad PVO), however, is almost entirely on modern S-400s with older S-300s only in support roles. Important to know which is being referred to in this discussion as the two Russian GBADs are pretty distinct.
 

Blitzo

Lieutenant General
Staff member
Super Moderator
Registered Member
Army SHORADS yes, although with a decent amount of post Soviet upgraded Tors and Buks. Strategic air defence (the big, bad PVO), however, is almost entirely on modern S-400s with older S-300s only in support roles. Important to know which is being referred to in this discussion as the two Russian GBADs are pretty distinct.

I was describing it in terms of total AAD systems including SHORADS, MR SAMs and LR SAMs, but certainly the LR SAM systems that Russia has are relatively more modern.
 

Abominable

Senior Member
Registered Member
Mugin-5 is big, 5m wingspan. It would likely show up on radar just as well as a TB-2.

We've only had one example of it evading Russian defences. I wouldn't put too much weight on one success, TB-2s managed to evade Russian AD a few times before they were figured out.

If suicide drone was the better option, then tube launched would be the way to go IMO. You could launch dozens of them from the deck of any surface ship through a MRLS like system.
 

Blitzo

Lieutenant General
Staff member
Super Moderator
Registered Member
Mugin-5 is big, 5m wingspan. It would likely show up on radar just as well as a TB-2.

We've only had one example of it evading Russian defences. I wouldn't put too much weight on one success, TB-2s managed to evade Russian AD a few times before they were figured out.

If suicide drone was the better option, then tube launched would be the way to go IMO. You could launch dozens of them from the deck of any surface ship through a MRLS like system.

It's all relative.
TB-2 has a 12m wingspan, and 6.5m length.
Mugin 5 has a 5m wingspan and 3.5m length.

That is a fairly substantial difference in size.


That said, if the Mugin 5 was operating at the altitudes of a HALE UAV rather than a suicide/strike low altitude flight profile, it likely would have been easier to be intercept.
 

Abominable

Senior Member
Registered Member
It's all relative.
Indeed.
TB-2 has a 12m wingspan, and 6.5m length.

Mugin 5 has a 5m wingspan and 3.5m length.

That is a fairly substantial difference in size.

That said, if the Mugin 5 was operating at the altitudes of a HALE UAV rather than a suicide/strike low altitude flight profile, it likely would have been easier to be intercept.
Looking at the video the drone seemed to be operating 50m+, high enough that it could have been picked up on radar.

The main issue I have with Mugin is that it's fuel powered. If you watch the video you can hear it quite clearly even though it's far away. The bigger the payload the bigger the drone, and the harder it becomes for electric powered drones to match the higher energy density of fuel drones.

Still, I'd still rather have 200 type Mugin-5s drones (or however many you could buy) than 1 TB-2.
 

Blitzo

Lieutenant General
Staff member
Super Moderator
Registered Member
Indeed.

Looking at the video the drone seemed to be operating 50m+, high enough that it could have been picked up on radar.

Again, it's all relative.

Detecting and intercepting a 5m wingspan drone flying at 50m altitude is many many times more difficult than intercepting a 12m wingspan drone operating at 5.5km altitude.
 

tphuang

Brigadier
VIP Professional
Registered Member
VTOL drone -- such a drone should already be in advanced development. We've seen mockups of this thing on 075s as they've been at dock and done sea trials over the last few years, which for the PLA would mean the aircraft is probably quite far along in works.
We've seen the recent fixed wing VTOL drones off CV-17. We've seen many helicopter like VTOL drones. There are tiltrotor drones and even quadcopter drones. I'm really curious how many different types they will end up employing.

If we want to take a lesson away from the Mugin 5 drone strike, it should be "low flying, small RCS targets require substantial networked and modern capabilities to defend against"... something we've known about for a long time.
Right, that's the scenario I'm think about. There are some degraded military bases along first island chain or even southern Kyushu. Could be anywhere from 650 km to 900 km away from mainland. Aside from utilizing PLAAF sorties with PGMs, what else could they do to keep these bases offline? Seems like low flying, small RCS killer drones is another choice now. I don't know if Harpy have the endurance to make it that far and attack the appropriate targets.
 

gelgoog

Colonel
Registered Member
Nearly all the long range S-300PMU systems in Russia were changed to S-400. The shorter/mid range S-300PS systems still have not been all replaced with the S-350 because its introduction was severely delayed and it only entered mass production a couple years ago. S-350 can quad pack short range missiles which makes it more effective vs drones than S-400. S-400 isn't meant to engage targets at short distances. At most you could use the S-400 to strike something like a Global Hawk. Then you have systems like the mid range Buk-M3 which only recently entered production and are available in only small numbers. But if we are talking about countering drones like TB-2 or Reaper then you are talking about the shorter range systems like the Tor or Pantsir. There are several versions of those. The latest ones are only available in limited numbers. Latest versions are pretty sophisticated. For example latest Pantsir has improved two-face phased array radar and missiles. Latest Tor can carry larger amount of missiles. I find it funny that you call Russia's air defenses "less than modern". Compared with what? Certainly not anything fielded by NATO.
 

Top