China on Wednesday unveiled its armed drone concept called Loyal Wingman. The features of China’s armed drone concept are similar in mission and appearance to the US-made Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie.
Many countries across the world are investing in building armed drones, these help protect pricier crewed fighter jets.
According to Wu Wei, a representative of China Aerospace Science Technology Corp (CASTC) Feihong product line, the Chinese armed drone concept (long-range FH-97) is capable of carrying different types of weapons and has swarm and electronic warfare capabilities. Though no product specifications were provided during his presentation at Airshow China in Zhuhai.
Other countries working on “loyal wingman” drones are cheaper and more expendable than crewed fighters.
CASTC did not provide any technical details of the FH-97 concept, also did not comment if it was planned for export, while many foreign observers watched the presentation. The Chinese companies have 27 drone exhibits at the Zhuhai show.
As far as the looks go the FH-97 is almost identical to the Kratos XQ-58A, which made its first flight in 2019. The XQ-58A has a maximum speed of Mach 0.85 and a range of about 2,200 nautical miles.
The plan was to turn Feihong into an “international top-notch brand… and become a major player at the center stage of the world arena.” said Zhang Zhongyang, vice president of CASTC.
China already exports military drones to countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and Serbia.
Collin Koh, a defense research fellow with Singapore’s Rajaratnam School of International Studies said, “The chief customer is certainly the PLA, but in recent years the Chinese are also aggressively marketing these systems for exports.”
At the show, GJ-11 was also on display and had two weapons bays open for the first time. There were four unidentified munitions inside each of them that appeared to be precision air-to-ground glide bombs.
According to Bradley Perrett, a specialist on Asian aerospace and defense, the GJ-11 was designed to slip undetected through radar coverage and attack heavily defended targets.
He further added, “In doing that, it would take the place of a much larger and more expensive fighter with a pilot. Development won’t be easy, but when it’s complete the type will present a new threat to Taiwan and potentially Japan.”