The Chinese military is making preparations for the first flight test of its newly designed unmanned combat vehicle, bringing the Asian powerhouse into the technology race.
China’s first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), known as the Lijian (‘sharp sword‘), is designed jointly by the Hongdu Aviation Industry Group and Shenyang Aviation Corporation. The project was launched in 2009 and the drone’s first ground test was conducted on December 13 last year.
The Chinese UAV is designed for use by the PLA Air Force and Navy Air Force for combat missions, It may also be used for tracking along China’s lengthy border.
Beijing’s efforts at developing its drone capabilities have not escaped the attention of Taiwan, which has been at odds with Beijing in the past over questions of sovereignty and national identity.
China’s stealth drone is third such unmanned combat vehicle in existence, after the X-47 designed by the United States, and the nEUROn, a collaborative effort of various EU companies.
The nEUROn was launched in 2005 following an order by the French Defense Procurement Agency. The program is a collaborative effort between French, Italian, Swedish, Spanish, Greek and Swiss defense companies.
The US Pentagon’s X-47 stealth drone, designed by Northrop Grumman, began as part of DARPA’s J-UCAS program, and is now part of the US Navy’s UCAS-D (Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration) program. The X-47 is still undergoing flight testing.
The unveiling of the prototype places the People’s Republic of China ahead of several nations in the development of stealth drone technology.
India, Iran, Israel, Italy, Sweden and Russia also have their own stealth UAV programs.