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Singapore Airshow 2024: Chinese AR-500 rotary-wing UAV gets teeth

A model of AVIC's new AR-500W rotary-wing UAV displayed at Singapore Airshow 2024 shows that it is armed with a substantial missions and weapons payload. (Janes/Akhil Kadidal)

The Aviation Industry Corporation of China's (AVIC's) AR-500 rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) being developed for naval (including carrier-borne) operations appears to be now armed with missiles and a heavy gun.

The model of an export variant of the UAV, the AR-500W, was unveiled during the Singapore Airshow 2024 held from 20 to 25 February. This AR-500W model was shown with two CM-502KG missiles on either side of the body, under stub wings, and a potential 12.7 mm heavy machine gun in a ventral position. The model also contained an electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) pod.

The CM-502KG is an air-to-surface missile commonly integrated with Chinese UAVs. China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) earlier said that the CM-502KG is a lightweight missile with a 25 km range. Its 11 kg warhead is optimised for precise strikes against land- or sea-based targets, the company added.

An AVIC company representative declined to provide specifics about the new UAV, except that the UAV is being positioned for sale to Asian navies, including that of Indonesia.

While the initial AR-500 series of UAVs had an officially stated role of wide-area surveillance, operating from naval vessels, the addition of weaponry such as missiles and a heavy machine gun or cannon would allow the AR-500s to conduct attacks against adversarial forces that would otherwise be risky for manned helicopters.

The AR-500 is China's attempt to match the US Navy's (USN's) Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout UAV. Janes earlier reported that the USN uses the Fire Scout as a low-cost platform for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR).

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