An example of the CH-4B armed UAV is being shown by the Royal Jordanian Air Force for the first time. Designed by the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics, part of the wider China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the CH-4B is one of a growing family of UAVs developed under the Cai Hong (rainbow) family name.
Marketed by Aerospace Long-March International Trade (ALIT), the CH-4B has found a good market here in the Middle East, in part due to the reluctance of US authorities to sell armed UAVs to their allies in the region. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq have all acquired the CH-4B armed version, and the type has been employed widely on operations in Yemen and against Daesh targets in Iraq.
Broadly similar in size and performance to the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator, the 18m (59ft) wingspan CH-4B has a take-off weight of 1,330kg (2,930 lb) and payload of 345kg (760 lb). It can operate at altitudes of up to 7,200m (23,620ft) and has a maximum endurance of 40 hours. The UAV is powered by a piston engine developing around 100hp (75kW), giving a top speed of 235km/h (146mph).
The type has been refined during production, the latest version – as operated by Jordan – featuring a bulged forward fuselage to house a communications antenna.
In terms of armament, the CH-4B can carry the AR-1 and AR-2 missiles and a range of small precision-guided bombs, such as the TG100. The AR-1 is a development of the HJ-10 (Blue Arrow 10) and has various seeker options, including imaging infrared, semi-active laser and TV guidance. Weighing 45kg (100 lb), the weapon is in effect the Chinese equivalent of the US AGM-114 Hellfire. The AR-2 is a new 20kg (44 lb) missile with semi-active laser guidance and a range of 8km (5 miles).
Jordan acquired the CH-4B about two years ago for service with No. 9 Squadron, which also operates the RJAF’s other unmanned air vehicle types: the Schiebel S-100 Camcopter and Leonardo Falco. Operational experience with the CH-4B has resulted in interest in the larger and more powerful CASC CH-5 21m (69ft) wingspan armed UAV.
The CH-5 offers a 200kg (441 lb) internal payload for sensors and a 1,000kg (2,205 lb) external payload, permitting it to carry up to 16 precision-guided missiles underwing. This vehicle is roughly equivalent to the MQ-9 Reaper, although it retains a piston engine instead of the Reaper’s turboprop.