Air Platforms

Airshow China 2018: Unmanned military systems take centre stage

09 November 2018

Although principally an aerospace exhibition, new land platforms and weaponry are often featured prominently at Airshow China, with one such example being Norinco’s King Leopard combat UGV. Source: IHS Markit/Kelvin Wong

New Chinese unmanned aerial, ground, and sea vehicles (UAVs, UGVs, and USVs) took centre stage at the 6-11 November Airshow China 2018 defence exhibition in Zhuhai.

At least 100 state-owned and private companies that develop and manufacture unmanned air and land platforms - as well as associated equipment such as avionics, mission payloads, weapons, power and propulsion systems, and structural components and spare parts - showcased their latest developments at the event, with many of these companies displaying in a dedicated UAV Hall for the first time in the event's history.

Consistent with Airshow China's reputation for being an outlet to officially unveil previously secret developments to the public, state-owned defence primes such as China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) took the opportunity to take the wraps off secretive programmes that had appeared as conceptual designs or models at earlier exhibitions.

For example, CASIC highlighted its stealth unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) technology demonstrator called Tian Ying (Sky Eagle). This UCAV adopts a low-observable flying wing design comparable to that of Lockheed Martin's RQ-170 Sentinel reconnaissance UAV, which was stated to have a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 3,000 kg. The company's Third Academy, which is responsible for the air vehicle's development, had released a statement in February 2018 announcing that it had already completed a series of successful trials.

Two years after CASC displayed a model of its then unnamed stealth UCAV to a selected audience within its private chalet at the previous exhibition, a full-sized model of the company's new Cai Hong 7 (Rainbow 7 or CH-7) prototype was prominently showcased at the Zhuhai show.

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