Unmanned strike aircraft shows its mettle

Updated: 2023-03-09 chinadaily.com.cn


WJ-700, China's first high-altitude, high-speed, long-endurance combat/reconnaissance drone. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

The China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp., a leading defense contractor, has conducted dozens of test flights of what it calls one of the country's best unmanned strike aircraft, according to a project manager.

"Since its maiden test flight in January 2021, WJ-700 prototypes have carried out dozens of flights to test capabilities and performance in terms of high-altitude, high-speed or long-duration operations, as well as reconnaissance and strike tasks," said Wang Changqing, president of the CASIC Third Academy in Beijing, the major supplier of cruise missiles to the military.

Through testing, designers and engineers have been able to determine the drone's maximum capability, and the results have been recognized by clients, he said.

He made the remarks on the sidelines of the ongoing first plenary session of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing. Wang is a member of the CPPCC National Committee.

According to Wang, the WJ-700 has achieved "satisfactory advances" in the international market.

"Our designers and engineers have now built a modified variant of the WJ-700 based on client requirements. In the future, we will deliver drones to users and will provide continual technical support and other services to boost defense capability and the arms industry," he said.

As China's first high-altitude, high-speed, long-endurance combat/reconnaissance drone, the WJ-700 is easy to operate and maintain — controllers need only press a button and the drone checks its equipment, takes off or lands on its own.

With a modular design, the craft can have as many as 11 configurations, enabling it to undertake missions such as battlefield reconnaissance, intelligence collection and precision strikes, Wang said, adding that it is capable of carrying radars, guided glide bombs, and anti-radiation and anti-ship missiles.

Development of the WJ-700 started in March 2018 at the CASIC Third Academy. Designers intended to create an advanced model for beyond-visual-range precision strikes against land targets, ships and air-defense weapons, and also for long-range surveillance and reconnaissance. In addition, the drone is capable of fulfilling early-warning or electronic jamming tasks when mounted with appropriate devices, according to the academy.

It is made of composite materials and is equipped with advanced instruments such as a fly-by-wire control system, integrated avionics and a high-bypass-ratio turbofan engine.

The WJ-700 has a maximum takeoff weight of 3.5 metric tons and is able to stay airborne for up to 15 hours. The drone's operational speeds range from 500 to 600 kilometers per hour, with a maximum speed of 700 km/h.

Aviation industry observers have said that the WJ-700 is suited to time-sensitive missions, and its aerial capabilities will make it almost unbeatable against short-range air defense weapons like the shoulder-launched missiles widely used in developing countries and other areas of conflict.

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