A KVD002, the People's Liberation Army Ground Force's first combat drone, is displayed in Tianjin. (Photo by Kuang Linhua/China Daily)
The People's Liberation Army Ground Force has unveiled its first combat drone, a move observers said will strengthen the service's operational capability.
The KVD002 is the PLA Ground Force's first unmanned reconnaissance and strike plane model and features good capability, control and maintenance convenience, and multitasking capacity.
The drone is mainly tasked with conducting long-duration reconnaissance over a large area or specific targets, and making precision strikes against enemy targets such as air defense weapons, armored vehicles and fortifications, according to an introduction of the device from the Ground Force.
"The drone can cooperate with helicopters in combat operations. It can provide battlefield intelligence and fire support for the helicopter units, and can guide attack helicopters to their targets," the introduction said, adding that the model can make short takeoffs and landings on a plateau.
A KVD002 was on display at the 6th China Helicopter Exposition that closed in Tianjin on Sunday, marking its public debut.
It had two AR-1 air-to-surface missiles under its wings and carried reconnaissance devices under the main body.
The Ground Force did not disclose the KVD002's developer. However, observers said that judged on its configuration and the AR-1 missile, the drone must have been designed based on the Caihong-4, or CH-4, China's bestselling unmanned combat aircraft on the international market. The CH-4 is built by the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics in Beijing, a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.
The academy is one of China's top military drone exporters. The CH-4 has been sold to more than 10 countries, making it the most popular and combat-proven drone the country has exported, according to statistics from the academy.
Information from the academy shows the CH-4 model can stay up to 30 hours in the air in one operation. It has a maximum speed of 230 kilometers per hour but usually operates at cruising speeds of 150 to 180 kph.
The drone has a maximum takeoff weight of 1.33 metric tons and can carry nearly 350 kilograms of weapons and equipment including missiles, bombs, radars, cameras as well as civilian payloads.
The drone has accumulated more than 20,000 hours of flight time around the world, the academy said.
Wang Yanan, chief editor of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, said advanced combat drones can be of great help to the Ground Force because they are capable of staying for long periods over target areas to perform reconnaissance, assaults and damage evaluation. Their deployment could save front-line commanders a lot of hardware and troops that would be needed to infiltrate enemy lines to do the same tasks.