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China test-flies ‘improved' carrierborne UAV

With several design changes and potentially a new engine, the AR-500CJ (depicted at the top) appears to be larger than the AR-500C variant, which first flew in 2020. However, AVIC has not disclosed the dimensions of the AR-500CJ. (Janes)

China has claimed the successful test-flying of a new vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) intended for service aboard the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy's larger surface vessels. This includes aircraft carriers.

In an announcement on its official blog on 10 August, the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) said that its AR-500CJ unmanned helicopter had made its first flight at Poyang in Jiangxi province.

The aircraft was developed by the company's China Helicopter Research and Development Institute (CHRDI). According to AVIC, the AR-500CJ is a “comprehensive improvement” over the earlier lightweight AR-500B shipborne UAV developed by the company.

In a video depicting the AR-500CJ in flight, the company said that the aircraft's maiden flight took place on 28 July. During the test flight, the AR-500CJ was assessed for its ability to take off, hover, conduct forward flight, manoeuvre, and land. The UAV's ability to recover from a simulated engine failure was also assessed.

AVIC said that the aircraft officially entered the test flight stage from the design trial production stage. The company added that the aircraft will be subject to additional functionality and performance testing at various locations in China. “The UAV will complete air qualifications by 2023,” AVIC said in a statement.

The development of the AR-500CJ represents gradual improvements being made to the AV-500 VTOL UAV family. The earlier AVIC AR-500B and AR-500C UAVs first flew in 2020.


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