The maiden flight of China’s independently developed CH-4 drone with an upgraded domestic heavy-fuel engine was recently completed. According to the aircraft’s manufacturer, the domestic engine allows the updated version of the CH-4 drone to fly at higher altitudes for longer endurance and heavier loads. China Aerospace Science Corporation (CASC) developed the CH-4, a multi-purpose military unmanned aerial vehicle.
CASC said that the self-developed CH-4 drone with a heavy-fuel engine recently completed scientific research tests in which it successfully carried out autonomous takeoff and landing, waypoint flight, full load transportation, and tests under maximum flight altitudes and endurance.
According to Shi Wen, chief engineer of the CH series drone, the heavy-fuel engine used in the upgraded CH-4 drone was domestically made from development to production.
As per Shi, the engine has low fuel consumption, long flight endurance, and a wide range of application environments.
The new heavy-fuel aviation engine allows the drone to stay in the air for much longer, fly farther, and reach higher cruise altitudes and ceilings. Shi claims that its payload capacity has increased by 30 to 50%.
Analysts believe that the new domestic engine will improve CH-4’s capability and make it more competitive in the market.
CASC Rainbow CH-4 UAV
The CH-4 (Cia Hong or Rainbow) is one of the world’s most popular armed reconnaissance drones. It can also be used for civilian purposes like high-resolution land observation, mapping, communications, aerial object detection, environmental monitoring, and forest fire prevention.
The Chinese Ministry of Defense issued a special order for the development and design of a multi-purpose military unmanned aerial vehicle. Because previous unmanned aerial vehicle projects had been successful, it was decided to assign a similar task to the CASC Corporation. The Chinese Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA, also known as the “Eleventh Academy” and previously known as NII-701), a branch of CASC, created the UAV. The UAV mockup was first shown at the Space Salon Air Show China-2012 in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province (South China). The makers claimed that the UAV was similar to the Wing Loong UAV.
The CH-4 unmanned aerial vehicle is designed for reconnaissance, patrol, observation, and special operations. Despite the relatively narrow specialisation of this drone’s use, the project proved to be very promising, and the device is still being manufactured, albeit at a rather high cost.
The Chinese unmanned aerial vehicle CH-4 has huge dimensions, particularly its length and height of 8.5 and 3.4 meters, respectively; the wingspan of this drone is 18 meters. Nevertheless, it is important to clarify the fact that this factor did not affect the aerodynamic design of the drone but rather, on the contrary, increased its flight performance, making it possible to stay in flight for a very long time.
Despite its large size, this UAV is currently powered by a single piston engine, allowing it to fly at a cruising speed of 180 km/h and have an autonomy of up to 30 hours (without additional load).
According to open sources, the drone measures 8.5 metres in length, 18 metres in wingspan, and 3.4 metres in height. The maximum takeoff weight of the drone is currently 1240 kg, with a cruise speed of 180 km/h, a maximum flight speed of 220 km/h, a maximum flight range of 250 km, and a maximum flight altitude of 8000 m. As previously stated, the aircraft engine is a piston, but the power plant is unknown. It produces 90 horsepower while driving a three-bladed pusher motor.
CH-4 is equipped with a retractable turret, electro-optical sensors, and a data link to the ground control station. The CH-4 UAV also has a cutting-edge dual control station for remote control, as well as line-of-sight and satellite communications.
CH-4A and CH-4B are the two variants. The CH-4A is a reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle, while the CH-4B is a mixed attack and reconnaissance system with a payload of up to 250 to 345 kg and a capacity of 6 weapons.
The CH-4 drone can fire air-to-ground missiles from 5,000 metres (16,400 feet), allowing it to avoid most anti-aircraft guns. It also enables the CH-4 to fire from a position with a wider field of view. But Yemini rebels have shot down Saudi CH-4 UAVs in combat.
Many countries have purchased the drone, including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, Algeria, and Egypt. The company has more capable UAVs than the CH-4, including the CH-5, the larger CH-6, the stealth CH-7, and the tilt-rotor CH-10. The CH-4 and CH-5 look identical to the American MQ-9 Reaper drones.
It was suspected that Chinese engineers learned all of the highly sensitive electronics through reverse engineering, at which they excel.
The Chinese UAV technology received a boost when Iranian forces shot down a highly classified USAF RQ-170 Sentinel drone flying over Kashmar, attempting to target nuclear installations. The Iranians were believed to have sold the drone’s electronics to China.