China’s CH-6 high altitude, long endurance, attack-reconnaissance drone unveiled at the Zhuhai air show this week will target the General Atomics’MQ-9A “Reaper”in the global arms market.
While earlier models of the CH series, the CH-4 and CH-5 have been benchmarked against the MQ-9, they have been deficient to the American drone in many ways. However with the CH-6, China hopes to close the gap a lot more.
Sharing many similarities to the MQ-9A “Reaper,”one of the most expensive drones in U.S. arsenal and offered only to select American allies, the CH-6 is capable of high-altitude reconnaissance as well as conducting targeted attacks, according to its developer, the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA).
In comments quoted by Chinese state media during the air show, Wen said, “The CH-6 is capable of performing a wide range of tasks including high-altitude reconnaissance and airstrike, anti-submarine and sea patrol operations, long-range early warning and close-in firepower support.”
“The drone can engage in action in groups (drone swarms) and can also cooperate with piloted aircraft (similar to Loyal Wingman project of Boeing),” he is quoted as saying.
Powered by two turbofan engines, the CH-6 has a maximum takeoff weight of 7,800 kilograms, is able to carry 450 kilograms of equipment and ammunition including electrooptical sensors, radars and missiles.
It can fly up to 700 kilometers per hour in a typical cruise flight and can stay in the air for 21 hours at an altitude of 15000 meters, according to the drone’s technical specifications.
Reports of the CH-6 drone published in the Chinese media are silent about it various sensors and weapons options.
CH-6 to improve upon CH-4
The CH-6 will improve upon the CH-4, a drone that has conducted more than 4,000 flights over the past decade under the control of its foreign operators, with an‘astonishing’ kill rate of 99 percent in its more than 800 missile strikes, according to Wen.
The CH-series are the most exported drones from China and in service with more than 10 countries including Pakistan, Myanmar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Iraq. The CH-6 would position itself as a natural upgrade to CH-4 customers.
Killer drone at a killer price
The MQ-9A “Reaper,” has price tag of around $32 million according to Forbes. This makes it more expensive than a fully equipped Apache helicopter. The MQ-9A was used in the targeted killing of Iranian general, Solemani, in Iraq in January 2020, according to U.S. media reports.
In comparison, the CH-4 is reported to be priced at under $5 million apiece including weapons and sensors. While there no price indications for the CH-6 so far, it would be priced at 50% or below that of the “Reaper,” to make it attractive to countries on a tight budget. Besides, taking the CH-4 price as a benchmark, the price of the CH-6 could be in the region of $6-8 million.
|Max Takeoff Weight
|7.8 metric tons
|10,500 lb (4.7metric tons)
|850 lb int. (386 kg)
3,000 lb ext. (1361 kg)
|Speed: 700 km/ph
Endurance: 21 hours
|Speed: 240 KTAS
Endurance: 27 hours
-Lynx Multi-mode Radar
-Multi-mode maritime radar -Automated Identification System (AIS)
|-High-altitude reconnaissance and airstrike
-Anti-submarine and sea patrol
-long-range early warning
-close-in firepower support
|Day, night reconnaissance and targeted killing. Is believed to have been used in the assassination of Iranian General Solemani in Iraq during January 2020.
|-Can be part of a drone swarm
-Can team up with a manned aircraft