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CH-7 stealth UAV ready by year’s end, says Chinese state media

A CH-7 prototype stealth UAV and other drones in the exhibition hall of the Airshow China 2022. Photo: Tao Ran/CH UAV CASC

The People’s Republic of China’s CH-7 stealth unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is scheduled to finish development by the end of this year, according to state media.

The People’s Republic of China’s CH-7 stealth unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is scheduled to finish development by the end of this year, according to state media.

The sleek CH-7 UAV has already completed final testing with maturation of its prototype and strength in its airframe structural design, according to newspaper Global Times (GT), a subsidiary of the People’s Daily (Central Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party).

Testing has verified outstanding performance in the flying wing configuration aircraft combined with a high level of stealth and long-range capability, according to statements provided to GT from drone developer Aerospace CH UAV.

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CH series drone chief engineer Shi Wen, speaking to GT at Airshow China 2022, said the aircraft has been further developed from previous models.

The new CH-7 has a 26-meter wingspan, four metres longer than the original version, and a service ceiling of 15 kilometres (compared to the original version’s 10–13 kilometres), he said.

Shi said the finalised CH-7 is expected to fly higher and stay longer in the mission zone for continuous reconnaissance, surveillance and detecting of hostile targets. Its stealthy design will effectively shorten enemy radar detection ranges

In addition, it will have a maximum take-off weight of 10 tonnes for large missiles and other guided weapons to strike high-value targets, he said.

The aircraft has previously been shown at Airshow China 2018 in Southern China, as well as a redesigned version at Airshow China 2022. The CH-7 is expected to make an appearance later this year at Airshow China 2024 from 12 to 17 November in Zhuhai later this year.

The OE Data Integration Network (ODIN), a resource collection used by the US Army, lists the CH-7 (Chang Hong 7 or Rainbow 7) as a stealthy flying wing UCAV similar to the Northrop Grumman X-47B unmanned combat aerial vehicle.

“The CH-7 can intercept radar electronic signals, and simultaneously detect, verify and monitor high-value targets, such as hostile command stations, missile launch sites and naval vessels,” the online report said.

“It can carry antiradiation missiles and stand-off weapons.

“Chinese media stated that the CH-7 is designed to ‘detect and destroy hostile strategic targets’ with other reports suggesting that the two rear landing gear bays also serve as internal payload bays for electronic warfare systems, guided bombs, and various air-to-surface missiles.”

Earlier this week, concerns were raised about Australia’s own development of unmanned aerial vehicles and loitering munition drones.

Assistant Minister for Defence Matt Thistlethwaite, speaking to ABC Radio on 30 January, refuted claims that drone development for the Australian Defence Force is years off service deployment and will leave the ADF significantly outgunned in the event of a conflict.

“The Australian Defence Force is investing in new drone technology and I’ve seen that firsthand. The Ghost Bat program is a partnership between Boeing Australia and the Royal Australian Air Force,” he said.

“We’re manufacturing that capacity in Melbourne; it’s creating jobs for Australians and it has a fantastic export capacity. That’s an uncrewed aerial vehicle that has the capacity to carry artillery payloads.

“The government is investing in Ghost Shark, which is an underwater uncrewed vehicle capacity. As well as companies like Sypaq, again based in Melbourne, that are supplying cardboard drones to the Ukrainian military as we speak. So, this drone capacity, in the Australian context, is being developed.

“I’ve seen firsthand the technology that’s being developed by the Australian Defence Force in partnership with Australian industry, creating high tech, high skilled jobs for Australians with an export potential.

“And I’ve got to say, I’m pretty impressed with the technology that’s being developed here in Australia and the government’s comfortable with the investments that the Defence Force is making in what would be important technology into the future.”

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