A new generation of China-made combat drones have made their international debut at the Dubai Airshow, in a pitch for global orders as the producer, Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), brags that Chinese aerial-photography vehicles are not only capable of capturing stunning images and videos of things on the ground, but that its militarized drones are also able to attack and destroy them.
The Yunying stealth drones are being marketed as the pinnacle of AVIC’s research and development capabilities, aimed at tapping the buoyant demand for attack drones from militaries worldwide.
Measuring 9 meters in length and 17 meters in wingspan and with normal takeoff weight rumored to be 3 tons, the Yunying prototypes on display at the airshow appear larger than a compact plane in size, comparable to a helicopter.
These drones can ascend higher and beyond the reach of most surface-to-air missiles thanks to powerful, turbo engines, and can gather intel or launch attacks against targets on land or in the sea from a high altitude, Global Times reports, quoting an AVIC technician.
Three types are available. Yunying 1, equipped with ultra-high-resolution long-range optic cameras as well as synthetic aperture radar, is capable of scanning and imaging 10,000 square kilometers per hour from an altitude of 13km, while full-band radar signal sensors and cellular network sensors on Yunying 2 can pinpoint all surface radar and communication devices within a radius of 400km and 200km respectively. Both models can proactively make sharp changes in flight trajectory.
Yunying 3, a highly maneuverable target drone, is the ace of the product line, packed with all the features of the above reconnaissance models, plus enhanced airborne attack systems that can destroy targets 50km away, according to AVIC.
Photos from the airshow indicate Yunying 3 is able to carry China’s Ying Ji-9E anti-ship missiles.
Chinese news portal Sina says in a separate report that Yunying 3 can carry up to six missiles on its wings, which makes it much easier to detect but enables it to attack the targets it finds immediately.
All Yunying drones may coordinate with each other in combat through data links to enable others including the reconnaissance attack version to attack the targets they find.
All Yunying drones are manufactured by AVIC’s Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group, a specialist in jet-fighter R&D in southwestern China’s Sichuan province.
Global Times reveals that “a dozen” overseas clients and foreign defense ministries have indicated interest, though the newspaper doesn’t specify who these prospective buyers might be.