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Update: Enhanced Chinese Sky Hawk stealth UAV conducts flight tests

CASIC is enhancing its Sky Hawk low-observable UAV for improved stealth characteristics and greater range. This graphic is based on the most recent imagery of the UAV, from February 2024. (Janes)

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

Janes has assessed video imagery of the Sky Hawk conducting a test flight aired by the state-owned broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) on 27 February. The video footage of the UAV also showed it in flight with its tricycle landing gear in wheels down position, which is indicative of preliminary flight-testing.

The upgraded UAV exhibits some design changes compared with an earlier iteration displayed during the China Air Show 2018 at Zhuhai. One prominent change is an expansion of the wing aileron surfaces. The UAV also appeared to have a new antenna for very-/ultra-high-frequency (V/UHF) communications on its mid-dorsal surface.

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.

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.

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