Cutting-edge drones displayed at show

2021-09-30 08:13:47China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Three cutting-edge military drones built by Aviation Industry Corp of China, the nation's leading aircraft maker, have gone on display at the Zhuhai Airshow in Guangdong province, highlighting the huge strides made by the company in manufacturing unmanned craft.

The WZ-7 reconnaissance aircraft, the WZ-8 high-altitude, high-speed reconnaissance drone and the GJ-11 stealth strike drone are among the biggest attractions at the ongoing 13th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, aviation experts said.

The biennial exhibition is China's largest defense technology show.

It is the first time the WZ-7 has been shown to the public, sparking enthusiastic interest from aviation fans. The Chinese military and AVIC have published no information or photos of the craft since 2006, when a conceptual model was unveiled at the Zhuhai Airshow. Even its service code name, WZ-7, was classified.

Called Xianglong, or Soaring Dragon, by industry sources, the WZ-7 is an unusually shaped drone and is regarded as China's answer to the United States' Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk, a high-altitude, long-endurance craft with surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

Featuring an innovative "joined tandem wing" design, the WZ-7's aerodynamic configuration is different from all other Chinese manned and unmanned planes-It has a main conventional swept wing joined with a smaller forward swept wing, which makes it look like a traditional Chinese kite.

The drone is 14-meters-long, 3.9-meters-tall and has a long wingspan of 22.8 meters, according to AVIC.

Equipped with infrared and optical imagers, it is tasked with providing imagery intelligence to the People's Liberation Army for strategic and tactical reconnaissance, the State-owned defense conglomerate said.

A special characteristic of the WZ-7 is that it is only the second unmanned aircraft in the world that is able to fly at the same altitude and speeds as commercial aircraft, the company said.

Fu Qianshao, a retired equipment researcher with the PLA Air Force, said the WZ-7 has extensively improved the PLA Air Force's reconnaissance capability and has a proven service record.

The WZ-7 is one of the largest unmanned reconnaissance drones in the world and can fly higher and faster than the RQ-4 Global Hawk.

The WZ-8 and GJ-11 were first shown to the public at the National Day parade in October 2019 in Beijing. The Zhuhai Airshow is the first to present the public an up-close view of them.

According to AVIC, the WZ-8 integrates aircraft and spacecraft technologies and travels in near space, the part of Earth's atmosphere 20 to 100 kilometers above sea level. The altitudes are above where commercial airliners fly, but lower than where satellites orbit.


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