The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) showcased a CH-4 unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) during the multilateral ‘Peace Mission 2014′ exercise featuring Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) members in Inner Mongolia in late August.
In a rare move, and indicating strong confidence in the platform, state media showed footage of a missile hitting a simulated enemy vehicle.
Feng Aiwang, commander of the exercise’s PLAAF battlegroup, said the CH-4 hit every target in several missile firings. The CH-4 (Cai Hong 4 or Rainbow 4), which has been characterised as China’s answer to the United States’ General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, operated alongside Z-10 and Z-19 attack helicopters, which also made their ‘Peace Mission’ debuts.
In a TV interview, Li Pingkun, head of the CH-4 project, said the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) could hit targets with a margin of error of less than 1.5 m. Without giving details, he revealed the CH-4 “used several methods to guide missiles or smart bombs onto targets”.
China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA) technical staff have previously told IHS Jane’s that the CH-4 has four hard points capable of carrying two AR-1 laser-guided missiles and two FT-5 small guided bombs.
The CH-4, developed by the CAAA and manufactured by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), has an 18 m wingspan. The 1,260kg CH-4A, designed primarily for reconnaissance, has a 30-hour endurance and 3,500 km range. The CH-4B has a shorter 14-hour endurance and 1,600 km range but can carry a much larger 345 kg weapon payload. It is unclear which version the PLA operated during ‘Peace Mission 2014’.
The CH-4 is believed to be the first CASC-manufacturer UAV to enter PLA service. The rival Yi Long (Wing Loong or Pterodactyl) UCAV produced by AVIC has achieved sales to at least three countries, apparently including Saudi Arabia. Algeria reportedly tested the CH-4 earlier in 2014.