Armed unmanned aerial systems (more commonly known as “drones” have gained worldwide attention for their use on battlefield that range from Afghanistan to Syria, with China’s CH-3 and CH-4 joining the fight in locales like Iraq and Nigeria. But these drones have been built around a winged airplane design, requiring a substantial logistical footprint, including a lengthy runway, to operate from. They also can fly above targets, but can’t perch and stare or enter real or urban canyons.
Aerial Firepower for the Masses
Enter helicopter drones, an area where the field is headed, including in China. In June 2016, an unmanned V-750 helicopter UAV successfully fired anti-tank missiles at targets. Jointly developed by Weifang Tianxiang Aerospace Industry Co.Ltd., Qingdao Haili Helicopters Manufacturing Co. Ltd and certified by Chinese aviation authorities in 2014, the 750kg V-750 drone is used by both civilian and military users. In its current configuration, the armed version of the V-750 can carry at least two 50kg anti-tank missiles, such as the HJ-9 and HJ-10, or rocket pods, and has a range of 500 kilometers.
The attributes of helicopter style drones is not just in where they can operate, but for whom. Along with the smaller NORINCO Sky Saker H-300, the arming of the V-750 is a sign that China’s armed robots are becoming more accessible to the average grunt. While a medium altitude long endurance UCAV like the US Reaper or Chinese Pterodactyl would normally be controlled by a corps or divisional headquarters, a medium sized helicopter UCAV could be operated at the battalion level.
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