An exhibitor introduces a YS-101 series loitering munition to visitors at the 14th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, this month. (PHOTO/CHINA DAILY)
A number of State-owned defense contractors have developed and promoted their own loitering munitions — also known as suicide drones — expecting to seize the rapidly expanding demand for such hardware in the market.
A loitering munition is basically a small drone that flies around a target area and crashes into a selected target once it is located. It enables faster reaction times against concealed or hidden targets that emerge for short periods without needing to send soldiers or larger weapons close to the target area. Some observers call them "game-changers" on the battlefield because the low-cost gadgets can be largely deployed to paralyze expensive, sophisticated weapons.
At the 14th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition that concluded on Sunday in Guangdong province's Zhuhai, Hunan Aerospace, a subsidiary of the country's largest missile maker China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, displayed a new, attractive option to buyers — an unmanned vehicle-mounted loitering munitions system.
The system consists of a six-wheeled, all-terrain vehicle that carries sensors and radars and an eight-barrel launcher.
It features a high level of automation and mobility and is able to operate in tough environments.
Each vehicle can independently carry out battlefield reconnaissance and target information collection, and then can conduct strikes against a wide range of targets such as armored vehicles, enemy troops, small fortifications as well as artillery positions, according to Zhang Di, general manager of Hunan Aerospace.
Zhang said the major weapon to be launched by the vehicle is the YS-101 series of loitering munitions.
"The drone can loiter around a designated area for about 80 minutes to wait for its target to appear. It is very accurate — in almost all of our live-fire tests, the munition hit the bull's eye. Its warhead is capable of piercing through the armor of a tank's turret," he said.
The manager added that products in the YS-101 series incorporate his company's expertise in advanced materials and electronics and are affordable to most buyers.
"Thanks to the affordable price, users can deploy them on a large scale and send them to carry out swarm strikes, which will produce a considerable power of destruction," Zhang said.
According to him, some buyers have already placed orders for the YS-101 series.