China¡¦s first stealth
combat drone has successful flight
China has tested its first stealth combat drone, state media said yesterday,
citing online photos of an aircraft resembling a shrunken US B2 bomber and
hailing the advance toward Western-level technology.
The test flight of the ¡§Sharp Sword¡¨ unmanned aircraft is another step in
China¡¦s years-long military buildup, with its defense spending now the second
highest in the world and growing by double-digit percentages each year.
It comes weeks after Tokyo said a drone had flown near East China Sea islands
claimed by both it and Beijing, ratcheting tensions between the rivals up
¡§The successful flight shows the nation has again narrowed the air-power
disparity between itself and Western nations,¡¨ the China Daily newspaper said,
adding that the flight made China the ¡§fourth power ... capable of putting a
stealth drone into the sky.¡¨
Images posted online showed a sleek grey delta-wing aircraft apparently powered
by a jet engine and resembling a US combat drone.
State broadcaster CCTV, citing eyewitnesses, said on its international channel
that the test flight lasted 20 minutes on Thursday afternoon in the southwestern
city of Chengdu.
The flight ¡§implies that China has made the leap from drones to combat drones,¡¨
it said, calling it a move of ¡§major significance.¡¨
Hong Kong-based military expert Andrei Chang said that by producing a heavy
combat drone, China had achieved a milestone claimed by few countries ¡X the US,
Russia and France ¡X but the design of the aircraft appeared ¡§a little bit
Unlike in the US version, the engine appeared to be exposed, which would reduce
its stealth capabilities, said Chang, editor of Kanwa Defense Review Monthly,
adding that China did not have ¡§enough experience¡¨ in the field.
Beijing is steadily building its military muscle and unveiled its first stealth
fighter, the J-20, in early 2011, though it is not expected to enter service
China¡¦s first aircraft carrier ¡X a refurbished vessel purchased from Ukraine and
named the Liaoning ¡X went into service in September last year, but is not
expected to be fully operational for several years.
A drone was at the center of a recent spat between Beijing and Tokyo, whose
dispute over islands which Taiwan also claims and calls the Diaoyutai Islands
(³¨³½¥x), known as the Diaoyu in China and the Senkakus in Japan, has raised
concerns of conflict.
An unidentified unmanned aircraft flew near the islands in September, where
China routinely conducts maritime patrols, prompting Japan to scramble fighter
jets. The aircraft came from the northwest and returned in that direction, a
Japanese defense official said.
Tokyo later threatened to shoot down any such aircraft, a move that Beijing
warned would amount to an ¡§act of war.¡¨
Chinese state media widely reported the new aircraft in close detail, although
they said the test flight was first revealed by ordinary Internet users on a
popular military Web forum, cjdby.net.
The aircraft was developed by two subsidiaries of Aviation Industry Corp of
China, the country¡¦s top aircraft manufacturer, the China Daily said.