China has announced that it is ready to mass produce the Cai Hong 5 (Rainbow 5, or CH-5) strike-capable unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that was unveiled at Airshow China in November 2016, according to a 15 July report by the China Daily newspaper.
The announcement was made shortly after the first mass-production model of the CH-5 conducted its first flight from an airfield in China’s northern Hebei Province.
Ou Zhongming, project manager of the CH series at the Beijing-based China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics – the country's largest exporter of military UAVs – was quoted by the state-owned newspaper as saying that several countries, including current users of other CH models and new clients, are in talks with the academy to procure the CH-5.
"Today's [14 July] flight means the CH-5's design has been finalised and we are ready to mass produce it," he was quoted as saying, refusing to name potential buyers.
Shi Wen, chief designer of the CH series, told the paper that the CH-5 outperforms all of its Chinese-made counterparts when it comes to operational endurance and payload capacity. “The UAV is as good as the US-made General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper: a hunter-killer drone often deemed by Western analysts as the best of its kind,” he claimed.
The prototype CH-5 was first flown in August 2015. Built by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) the UAV has a wingspan of 21 m, can stay in the air for a maximum of 60 hours, and has a service ceiling of 7,000 m, according to specifications briefed to Jane's by a senior CASC official in November 2016.
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