WJ600 jet powered drone
Wall Street Journal – China is ramping up production of unmanned aerial vehicles in an apparent bid to catch up with the U.S. and Israel in developing technology that is considered the future of military aviation. Western defense officials and experts were surprised to see more than 25 different Chinese models of the unmanned aircraft, known as UAVs, on display at this week’s Zhuhai air show in this southern Chinese city. It was a record number for a country that unveiled its first concept UAVs at the same air show only four years ago, and put a handful on display at the last one in 2008
This year’s models in Zhuhai included several designed to fire missiles, and one powered by a jet engine, meaning it could—in theory—fly faster than the propeller-powered Predator and Reaper drones that the U.S. has used in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
U.S. anxiety about China’s UAVs were highlighted in a report released Wednesday by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which was formed by Congress in 2000 to assess the national security implications of trade and economic relations with China. 12 page U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2010 Annual Report Exec Summary to Congress Links to the full annual report is here
“The PLA Air Force has deployed several types of unmanned aerial vehicles for both reconnaissance and combat purposes,” the report said. “In addition, China is developing a variety of medium- and high-altitude long-endurance unmanned vehicles, which when deployed, will expand the PLA Air Force’s ‘options for long-range reconnaissance and strike,’ ” it said, citing an earlier Pentagon report.
The Chinese drone of greatest potential concern to the U.S. is the one with several missiles and a jet engine—called the WJ600—which was displayed by China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp., or Casic, one of China’s top weapons makers.
Casic officials declined to comment, but a video and a two-dimensional display by the company showed Chinese forces using the WJ600 to help attack what appeared to be a U.S. aircraft carrier steaming toward an island off China’s coast that many visitors assumed to be Taiwan.
Drone in Space? China Aerospace Science & Technology Corp., one of the main contractors in China’s space program, displayed an attack drone, complete with air-to-ground missiles.
Largest Drone:ASN Technology’s ASN-229A Reconnaissance and Precise Attack UAV, the largest drone at the show, carries air-to ground missiles and uses a satellite link to find targets over a radius of 2,000 kilometers 1,250 miles.
Avian Drone:The ASN-211, a model under development, is about the size of a large duck and has flapping wings. It is designed for reconnaissance behind enemy lines.