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Enhanced Chinese Sky Hawk stealth UAV takes to flight

CASIC is enhancing its Sky Hawk low-observable UAV for improved stealth characteristics and greater range. (Janes)

China's Tianying (Sky Hawk) tailless low-observable, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has started flight-testing following upgrades to its primary parameters. According to Chinese state-owned media, the changes improve the UAV's stealth characteristics and endurance.

Developed by the No 3 Research Institute of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), the Sky Hawk has been designed to conduct stealth-based reconnaissance and attack missions, according to state-owned media. CASIC has previously said the Sky Hawk will operate either independently or alongside other unmanned platforms for force multiplication.

On 27 February the state-owned broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) aired footage of the Sky Hawk conducting a test flight.

According to CASIC, the Sky Hawk is designed for multirole operations at “high altitude, high stealth” and with “high autonomy”. As a force multiplier, the Sky Hawk could help support People's Liberation Army Air Force's (PLAAF's) unmanned operations such as stealth penetration, precision attack, and multidimensional attack, Janes assesses.

“It is mainly used to carry out long-range tactical reconnaissance missions in close-in or penetration missions in a high-threat battlefield environment, and provide effective comprehensive intelligence for command decision-making and fire strikes,” state-owned newspaper Global Times said in 2018.

The Sky Hawk could operate alongside the CASIC WJ-700, according to the Sky Hawk programme's chief engineer, Ma Hongzhong, as cited by state-owned media. The WJ-700 is a turbofan/turbojet engine-powered high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) armed reconnaissance UAV, which is also a product of CASIC's No 3 Research Institute.

According to the US Department of Defense, the WJ-700 was introduced in 2021 and has a maximum take-off weight of 3.5 tonnes. CASIC is now publicising the WJ-700 for sales.

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