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Air Platforms

Airshow China 2018: CASC reveals stealth UCAV development

07 November 2018
CASC’s CH-7 adopts a flying wing design that resembles Northrop Grumman’s experimental X-47B unmanned combat aerial vehicle. Source: IHS Markit/Kelvin Wong

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) used Airshow China 2018, held in Zhuhai from 6-11 November, to announce it is developing a turbofan-powered high-altitude unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) called the Cai Hong 7 (Rainbow 7, or CH-7).

Under development by the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA), the flight technology development arm of CASC, the prototype CH-7 on display is at the detailed design stage and adopts a truncated diamond-shaped 'flying wing' planform that is equipped with sweptback outer wings with control surfaces let into the trailing edges of the air vehicle's fuselage, and trailing edges and upper surfaces of its wing sections.

The airframe also features a dorsally mounted low-observability engine intake and exhaust, ventral payload bays, and a retractable tricycle undercarriage assembly comprising a single-wheeled nosewheel and a single-wheeled main gear; the exposed edges of their housings and covers are serrated to preserve the air vehicle's low-observability characteristics.

According to CASC specifications, the CH-7 has a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 13,000 kg. Specific details on payload-carrying capacity and types were not disclosed, but a company spokesperson said the air vehicle will be able to carry a range of electronic payloads including active and passive sensors and electronic warfare systems, as well as anti-radiation, anti-ship, and precision air-to-ground missiles, and guided bombs.

The company also said that the CH-7 will typically cruise at altitudes of 32,808-42,650 ft at speeds of up to 740 km/h, although it can achieve a high subsonic speed of 926 km/h. Range and endurance were not specified, but Jane's understands that it will be equipped with a secure satellite communications (satcom) datalink that facilitates long-range operation, while a flight endurance for more than 10 hours can be expected for its intended roles.

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