As countries race to invest in “loyal wingman” drones to help protect more expensive manned fighter jets, China on Wednesday announced a drone concept similar in mission and appearance to the U.S.-made Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie.
China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC) Feihong product line representative Wu Wei said that the long-range FH-97 UAV concept announced on Wednesday can carry different types of weapons and has cluster and electronic warfare capabilities.
He did not provide specific details in his speech at the Zhuhai China Air Show.
The United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, India, and Russia are all developing “loyal wingmen” drones, which are cheaper and easier to consume than manned fighter jets.
CASTC did not provide technical details of the FH-97 concept, nor did it state whether it plans to export, although many foreign observers watched the demonstration.
The appearance of the FH-97 is almost exactly the same as the Kratos XQ-58A that flew for the first time in 2019. The XQ-58A has a maximum speed of Mach 0.85 and a range of approximately 2,200 nautical miles.
Zhang Zhongyang, deputy dean of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, stated that the plan aims to build Feihong into a “world-class brand…and a major participant in the center stage of the world stage.”
China has exported military drones to countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and Serbia.
“The main customer is of course the People’s Liberation Army, but in recent years, the Chinese have also been actively promoting these systems for export,” said Collin Koh, a defense researcher at the Rajaratnam Institute of International Studies in Singapore.
China also used the country’s largest air show to showcase the weapons capabilities of one of its most advanced stealth attack drone projects, the GJ-11.
The Global Times reported that the two weapon bays of the GJ-11 exhibited at the exhibition were opened for the first time. Each contained four unidentified ammunition, which appeared to be precise air-to-ground glide bombs.
Asian aerospace and defense expert Bradley Perrett (Bradley Perrett) said that the GJ-11 is designed to not be detected within radar coverage and to attack tightly defended targets.
“In doing so, it will replace larger and more expensive fighter jets with pilots,” he said. “Development is not easy, but when it is completed, this type will pose a new threat to Taiwan and potential Japan.”
Chinese companies have 27 drone exhibits at the Zhuhai Exhibition.
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