Earlier this month, China tested a new helium-filled airship that will soar to great height to offer the government new and broad surveillance capabilities. Called Yuanmeng, the ship is expected to be able to stay aloft for up to 48 hours.
The airship works via a combination of lighter-than-air gases and electricity. Helium lifts the ship to the near-space region (65,000 to 328,000 feet). Once Yuanmeng is at altitude, solar panels mounted on the surface provide electrical power to propellers that guide the airship into position. Solar power is ideal for high-altitude drones and airships because it reduces the need for an internal fuel supply, reducing the overall size of the aircraft and freeing it from the task of carrying its own fuel.
Yuanmeng measures an enormous 18,000 cubic meters (635,664 cubic feet) in volume. The airship is equipped with communications and surveillance gear, including wide-band communications, digital data links, high-definition “observation” (HD cameras), and spatial imaging technologies.
The Gaofen-4 geostationary earth observation satellite will be launched by the end of this year with the express purpose of hunting US aircraft carriers. The satellite is equipped with a visible light imager at 50 meters and infrared staring optical imager at 400 meters.
China has created the means of holding at risk US aircraft carriers with two new anti-ship ballistic missiles, the DF-21D and the new DF-26. However, locating US aircraft carriers is not easy, and China has developed a variety of airborne and space-based sensors to ease the search
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