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China completing development of CH-7 stealth UCAV

CASC's CH-7 ‘Rainbow 7' stealth unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) has been designed to operate in hostile adversarial airspace and conduct strikes on strategic targets. (Janes/Chinese state-owned media)

China's Cai Hong 7 (Rainbow 7, or CH-7) stealth unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) has completed testing and is on schedule to conclude development in 2024, according to Chinese state-owned media.

Developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) and powered by an undetermined turbofan engine, the CH-7 is a high-altitude UCAV being developed as a deep penetration platform. The UCAV's central role will be to breach an adversary's defended airspace to strike strategic targets, Janes assesses.

According to the state-owned newspaper, Global Times , the CH-7 was subject to new design features to “further enhance [the UCAV's] effectiveness in information-based combat in modern warfare”. The UCAV manufacturer, Aerospace Rainbow UAV Co, Ltd, told the newspaper that the testing programme had verified the UCAV's performance and the “effectiveness of its airframe structural design”.

The UCAV “has completed tests, and its development is scheduled to finish [in 2024]”, the newspaper said.

The UCAV has been the subject of design changes over the course of the programme. The UCAV made its debut during Airshow China 2018 at Zhuhai. At the time, the aircraft closely resembled the Northrop Grumman X-47B, but with canted wingtips instead of the triangular wingtip edges of the US aircraft. When a model of the CH-7 was shown four years later at Airshow China 2022, it had redesigned wing flaps, sharper canted wingtips, and a longer central engine nacelle. The wingspan was also increased from 22 m in the 2018 model to 26 m in the latest iteration, according to state-owned media.

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