China’s WJ-700 UAS debuts at Airshow with more powerful technologies

Global Times

By Cao Siqi, Liu Xuanzun and Fan Wei in Zhuhai Published: Nov 13, 2022 10:31 PM

As China’s first high altitude, high speed and long endurance armed reconnaissance UAV system that had made maiden flight, WJ-700 UAV is exhibited at this year’s Airshow China, attracting wide attention with newly equipped high technologies including the country’s first domestic one-ton thrust turbofan engine featuring high performance and high reliability and the use of a large number of carbon fiber composite materials.

The Global Times learned from its developer, No.3 Research Institute under the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), that all these upgrades make WJ-700 more flexible and intelligent, which will allow it to realize key capabilities such as one-button self-detection, autonomous inbound and outbound, one-button take-off cruise and autonomous return and landing of the UAV, greatly improving the system’s reliability, reducing the control difficulty of the flight crew and the maintenance intensity of the ground crew.

The upgraded WJ-700 UAV can equip multiple advanced missiles, airborne photoelectric equipment, SAR radar, electric detection radar and other early warning, surveillance and security equipment. Compared with medium long-endurance UAVs, the WJ-700’s reconnaissance efficiency has been exponentially improved over the same period of time.

In addition to carrying multiple types of reconnaissance loads, the WJ-700 UAV can carry glide guided bombs, air-to-ground missiles, anti-radiation missiles, anti-ship missiles and other types of airborne weapons to carry out long-range ground attack, anti-radiation operation and long-range anti-ship operation.

At the same time, it can quickly reach the mission area to carry out strike and clearance tasks. With the high altitude and high-speed flight characteristics, it can release weapons at a maximum kinetic energy, easily reach the range of 50-80 kilometers, and realize the destruction of enemy missile sites, airports, command posts and other key targets outside the enemy defense area.

Apart from WJ-700, the Sky Hawk — dubbed by netizens as China’s X-47B — made an appearance again. Since its debut at the Airshow China in 2018, Sky Hawk UAV, as the flagship product of unmanned combat system, has been receiving high attention.

Sky Hawk UAV is a reconnaissance platform with high ceiling, high stealth, high autonomy, long endurance and multi-purpose. It is mainly used to carry out long range tactical reconnaissance missions in close-in or penetration missions in a high-threat battlefield environment, and provide effective comprehensive intelligence for command decision-making and fire strikes, the Global Times learned from the corporation.

In the Hollywood action blockbuster Angel Has Fallen, the scene of attack by vehicle-mounted swarm drones is impressive. In the film, drones are catapulted into the air in the launch pad and perform the task according to predetermined trajectory and target identification. The whole process is like a smooth flow, without giving any reaction time to the early warning system and making the security personnel difficult to cope with.

At this year’s Airshow China, UAV swarm combat systems are moving from the movies to reality. The new-generation aerial intelligent unmanned swarm combat system debuted in Zhuhai, making the audience thrilled to say it is “too advanced for display.”

The development of the swarm combat system is inspired by bees. When bees fly in groups, the worker bees will work according to the arrangement of the scout bees and the queen bee, exchange information through the “dance” between individuals, arrange the formation, complete the site selection, honey collection and other actions.

Ma Hongzhong, chief engineer of the drones, told the Global Times that the new generation of UAVs cluster combat system can form a considerable number of aircraft groups in designated airspace within a short time through high-density loading and continuous launch of various launch platforms (on the land, in the sea and air).

“In addition, it can make full use of the advantages of low cost and large number of UAVs to create overwhelming numerical advantages in the local battlefield. Through flexible convergence” and dispersion, precise target selection, rapid penetration and multi-dimensional attack, the system could realize the intention of winning with small size but large quantity,” Ma said.

Ma pointed out that WJ-700, Sky Hawk and UAV swarm combat system could either launch a strike independently or cooperate to fight.

WJ-700 has become a very mature product and been sold to foreign countries. The Sky Hawk UAV is also a mature product with all technologies having been tested. Some verification of the Sky Hawk’s flight experiment has been carried out. The verification of key technology of UAV swarm combat system is underway, which is expected to be equipped with actual combat capability soon, according to Ma.

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John Pike