The Chinese military announced its plans to procure two different types of loitering munitions on Monday.
The statement released on weain.mil.cn, the Chinese military’s weapon and equipment procurement website, does not mention how many or what type of munitions the military exactly plans to buy, the contractor or the contract value. The information is listed as ‘confidential.’
The Chinese military generally relies on its local defense manufacturers for arms procurement. Amongst others, it has CH-901 and WS-43 loitering munitions.
The CH-901 is 1.2m long, weighs 9kg, has a top speed of 150kmph, an operation radius of 15km and an endurance of 120 minutes, On the other hand, the WS-43 has a range of 60km, carry a warhead of 20kg and can then stay above its target for 30 minutes. The WS-43 can also be launched from a rocket launcher.
Loitering munitions are considered a mix of cruise missiles and drones. Once launched, they can ‘loiter’ in the air and wait for its target, or conduct reconnaissance and surveillance operations. It then launches a ‘suicide attack’ like a missile after finding out its location. Some types of loitering munitions can even return to the base for future deployment.
Drawing comparisons between a missile and a loitering munition, a Chinese military expert told Global Times: “A missile will need time to launch and travel, which could result in missing the opportunity. Launching the suicide drone in advance also means that the enemy will have a harder time locating where it was launched from. In addition, a suicide drone is cheaper than an armed reconnaissance drone.”