“We plan to take the approach of plug and play in developing new cruise missiles, which will enable our military leadership to configure cruise missiles according to military conditions and specific requirements,” Changqing said.
Modular design is not new to the world's missile developers. The European missile developer and manufacturer MBDA displayed its CVW102 Flexis modular missile concept at last year's Paris Air Show. The system will allow missiles to be configured, according to mission requirements.
The modular weapon that could be tailored for specific applications—similar in concept to the Russian Kalibr, which is made in multiple variants for different types of missions. The cruise missile will have drone like capabilities.
“Moreover, our future cruise missiles will have a very high level of artificial intelligence and automation allowing commanders to monitor them in real time or use them for automated real time navigation, as well as add more tasks during the flight,” Changqing said.
"They will allow commanders to control them in a real-time manner, or to use a fire-and-forget mode, or even to add more tasks to in-flight missiles."
Chinese engineers have researched the use of artificial intelligence in missiles for many years, and they are leading the world in this field, he said.
The CVW102 Flexis is designed for an aircraft carrier strike group. Missiles will be selected and assembled with different warheads, engines and guidance devices based on target information, according to a report on advanced missiles published by the Beijing Hiwing Scientific and Technological Information Institute, which researches aerodynamic missiles and unmanned systems.
A senior researcher at the institute who requested anonymity said a modular missile system is flexible and multifunctional. This will help manufacturers reduce development and storage costs and will enable a military user, such as an aircraft carrier, to prolong the operational range and duration of a mission.
"It is a promising approach in terms of the design of next-generation missiles, but we should also consider its technological complexity and production costs," he said.
Wang Ya'nan, editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, said a modular missile will be capable of changing its destructive capacity, flight mode and range, and so is suitable for striking targets on the ground or at sea.
"However, engineers will have to make sure such a missile can be assembled within a very short period of time. Otherwise, the best time to engage the target will be missed," he said.
SOURCES- China Daily, National Interest