China Flies Its Largest Ever Drone: The Divine Eagle

It's Going to Hunt Stealth Bombers

Divine Eagle Hunts

The offensive applications of the Divine Eagle are demonstrated here, as two Divine Eagles mark out not just the enemy aircraft carrier, but also its escorting warships and aviation wing, while vectoring friendly aircraft and ships into combat. One presumes that the Divine Eagle would also be able to find targets for the infamous DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile.

New images of testing materials have emerged of China’s largest ever UAV, the secretive Divine Eagle. Compared to other Chinese aviation projects like the J-20 stealth fighter and Y-20 heavy transport aircraft, the lack of publicly available photos of the Divine Eagle suggests that like the American RQ-180, this giant drone is a strategic and sensitive asset. Given the presence of official diagrams and wind tunnel testing, the Divine Eagle is likely to be a real Chinese project, built by the “black project” division of the venerable Shenyang Aircraft Corporation. Reliable Internet sources also indicate that the Divine Eagle conducted its first flight in December 2014 or early 2015.

Divine Eagle Three View

This three view graphic of the Divine Eagle shows its stealthy features, such as canted wings, serpentine engine intakes and flat surface area ruling. Its unique double body design gives it room to enough AESA radars for 360 degree coverage in detecting stealth aircraft.


These computer simulations show the aerodynamic performance of the Divine Eagle, the bottom image shows its performance at Mach 0.8 speed, at a 25 km altitude (though the Divine Eagle may not be always operating at such flight parameters).

The Divine Eagle has a very unique design, similar to the World War II U.S. P-38 Lightning fighter. It has a forward fuselage attached to twin booms, which are also attached to a large, inverted Pelican tail rear wing that houses the twin turbofan engines. Wind tunnel tests indicate that the Divine Eagle has been tested in simulated conditions of Mach 0.8 speed and 25 km altitude, which would likely indicate its top speed and flight ceiling (the RQ-4 Global Hawk’s flight ceiling is about 18 km). Assuming that the satellite communications disk on the blueprint has a 1 meter diameter, the Divine Eagle would have a length of 25 meters and a 50 meter wingspan. This would indicate that the Divine Eagle is likely to have a maximum takeoff weight of between 15-20 tons, which would make it one of the world’s largest UAVs.

360 Radars

The 7 radars include a X/UHF AMTI Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar on the front, two X/UHF AMTI/SAR/GMTI AESA radars on the twin booms, two X/UHF AMTI AESA radars on either side of the engine nozzles, and two more radars on the end of the booms. AMTI and GMTI radars are used for tracking air and surface targets, respectively, while SAR is used to provide detailed imagines of ground targets like bases and infrastructure.

JY-26 Radar

The JY-26 “Skywatch” AESA Radar, operates in the long wave band to detect stealth aircraft, which are often optimized against detection by shorter wavelenghts. The JY-26 is claimed to have a range of 500km and Chinese media claimed it detected F-22 Raptor fighters off the South Korean coast in mid 2014. The Divine Eagle is likely to have similar radar technology to detect stealth bomber and fighters at long range.

The Divine Eagle design has seven radars that provide it with complete 360 coverage, including a X/UHF AMTI Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar on the front, two X/UHF AMTI/SAR/GMTI AESA radars on the twin booms, two X/UHF AMTI AESA radars on either side of the engine nozzles, and two more radars on the end of the booms. Airborne Moving Target Indicator (AMTI) radar types are used to track airborne targets, like enemy fighters and cruise missiles. Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) provides high resolution of slow moving ground vehicles and enemy bases. Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) radars are ideal for identifying and tracking ships, such as aircraft carriers. X/UHF band radars, which include the “F-22 killer” JY-26 that debuted at Zhuhai 2014, have raised concerns in the American military that they could track stealth aircraft like the F-35 fighter and B-2 bomber at long ranges.

Divine Eagle at War

The Divine Eagle is shown here in both offensive operations (providing targeting for smart bombs to strike enemy SAM, communications, bunkers and ballistic ICBMs) as well as defensive operations (detecting American stealth aircraft before they enter China airspace).

Compared to its stealthy American counterpart, the RQ-180, the Divine Eagle is designed more for operational reconnaissance rather than strategic intelligence, direct flights over denied territory. While it has a very stealthy design, the Divine Dragon’s high flight ceiling means that enemy fighters would have difficulty engaging it, and its long range radar would allow it to stay away from air defenses like the AEGIS when guiding Chinese anti-ship missiles at carriers. The Divine Eagle’s could datalink with Chinese SAMs on land and sea to shoot down low flying cruise missiles. The Divine Eagle would even have a role in striking down enemy A2/AD networks, by locating enemy surface to air missiles (SAM) launchers to be destroyed by Chinese smart bombs. At the same time, the Divine Eagle can locate enemy stealth bombers, fighters, drones and cruise missiles, and then summon Chinese fighters to defend the Mainland.

Divine Configurations

The Divine Eagle, in its initial design phase, underwent an analysis of potential airframe configurations. The consideration of a conic design, boxed wing and twin boom fuselage indicate that the General Armaments Department (the PLA’s procurement arm) wanted a very high altitude UAV capable of long duration flights.

That Chinese Internet censors are allowing Divine Eagle technical descriptions to proliferate online is notable. It could be a psychological response to U.S. interest in Third Offset systems like drone swarms and the Long Range Strike Bomber. The Divine Eagle’s ability to protect large areas of Chinese airspace against stealth aircraft makes any air raid against China a much more dangerous and difficult task. In turn, the Divine Eagle’s airborne surveillance capabilities would increase the lethality of Chinese offensives by improving the quality of targeting information about enemy warships, bunkers, airfields and missile launchers. Finally, just as American UAS are used in intelligence gathering and surveillance roles for everything from earthquake response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Divine Eagle would presents a great leap forward for Chinese expeditionary capabilities.

Many thanks to: Hongjian, Blitzo and Henri K

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